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Sunday, July 13, 2008

World Wide Truckers Strike - Balkan Trucker's Strike spreads from Greece to Romania

Not only are economies in Europe and around the world connected, but the power for a strike to travel cross borders has been demonstrated.  In May a strike spread through Greece to Romania and back again.  This strike over fuel prices actually delayed the delivery of fuel to gas stations bringing many aspects of local life to a halt and even stopped the shipment of freight out of ports where freighters sat with empty fuel tanks themselves.

The increase in fuel prices over the past months triggered a series of strikes by those employed in transportation around the Balkans. The Greeks were the first to start action with a 10-day truckers’ strike that led to considerable fuel and goods shortage and caused rising tension around the country before it ended on May 15. Romanian road carriers followed suit on May 12, passing on the torch to Bulgarian transport companies, who started protests on May 19.

In Greece, tanker truck owners together with owners of public-use trucks demanded a 13 per cent increase in their haulage charges instead of the five per cent agreed by the Greek government the previous month. They also sought permission to use the national highways on weekends and had demands relating to pensions and social insurance.

On May 9 the strikers met Greek transport and communications minister Konstantinos Hatzidakis. He agreed to some concessions that were in his beat, for example letting some categories of vehicles use the national highways on weekends. He also said he would liaise with employment and social protection minister Fani Palli-Petralia as far as pension and social insurance issues were concerned, Athens News Agency reported. However, the truckers failed to accomplish their main goal, the increase of haulage rates, because this was in the remit of the finance ministry, although Hatzidakis did conduct discussions with economy and finance minister Georgios Alogoskoufis. Several days later, protestors’ representatives met deputy economy and finance minister Antonios Bezas and Petralia herself to discuss their demands.

Meanwhile, the ongoing protest actions had an immediate impact on fuel supply in Greece. Athens News Agency reported that, following the strike on May 11, petrol stations started to run out of fuel and drivers around the country faced the tangible threat of being left empty-tanked.

Greek daily Kathimerini said vehicles were queuing up for kilometres at petrol stations to refuel and quoted an Athens petrol station owner as saying they served about 250 cars in less than two hours. Greek press reported fuel thefts and cases of pump owners raising prices in a bid to exploit the crisis. According to Kathimerini, there were also shortages in some food markets caused by producers’ inability to transport goods.

The truckers’ protest also hit shipping as several ferries failed to leave ports for lack of fuel, Athens News Agency reported. At 5am on May 12, taxi drivers joined the truckers’ protest, staging a 24-hour strike.

Balkan truckers ON STRIKE - News news

In many ways this strike had a lot more teeth than the strike in Portugal.  The strike didn't just delay by a day or two the delivery of fitness equipment or non-essential items, it delayed the delivery of fuel thus multiplying the impact of the strike.