Greek air traffic controllers, truck owners greet EU-IMF auditors with new strikes

10:54, July 27, 2010      

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Thousands of travelers faced long delays and the prospect of air flights cancellations in Greek airports on Monday and Greeks rushed to gas stations to fill up their cars for fears of fuel shortage in the following days, as air traffic controllers and truck owners started a new strike nationwide.

The two labor unions launched a new round of mobilizations against austerity measures and reforms over the past few hours. Furthermore, other labor unions threatened to follow, while a group of European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) auditors began on Monday morning in Athens a two-week new round of consultations with Greek officials on ways to overcome the country's acute economic crisis.

Fiscal management policies, tax revenues and structural reforms, debt-ridden public organizations, such as state hospitals, social security funds, and the opening up of the so-called "closed" professions, such as state-licensed road freight vehicles ownership, are the main issues on the agenda of discussions.

But the package of changes suggested by the Greek government and EU-IMF auditors to overcome the severe debt crisis, which hit Greece hard this year, caused strong reactions of Greek employees.

Protesting against pension reform plans and a draft bill regulating air travel issues, air traffic controllers have been intentionally causing delays in flight schedules since Sunday.

Passengers in Greek airports face delays ranging from 15 minutes to four hours, even the possibility of cancellations. Already 120 flights from the Athens international airport Eleftherios Venizelos were delayed and three domestic flights canceled.

"It is an unacceptable situation, while Greek national economy takes a breath from the crisis," said Greek Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Nikos Sifounakis on Monday while speaking to local media, voicing the agony of the Greek tourism industry which faces a new blow at the peak of the summer season.

The tourism sector, which traditionally is regarded as a vital source of revenues for Greek national economy, has suffered a lot this year due to the economic crisis and a wave of strikes and protests which sometimes turned violent and scared visitors away.

The prospect of a mobilization that could last for days, combined with the strike of truck drivers and the warning of gas station owners that they will join the strike on Tuesday, has alarmed Greek tourism industry officials who fear more losses due to disruptions in travel.

Representatives of owners of state-licensed road freight vehicles said that they intend to keep up with the strike which started midnight Sunday, until the government takes back a draft bill which opens up the closed road freight market. They accuse the government of selling them vehicle licenses at triple the current value.

Since 1971 the Greek state has granted licenses to almost 30, 000 trucks which transport goods in the local market.
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