Greek taxi drivers resume strike

Greek taxi drivers launched a 24-hour strike Thursday to protest a government-backed reform bill they say will devastate independent drivers while helping wealthy businessmen.

The union of taxi owners in mid-July launched a three-week strike to oppose a government plan to liberalise the sector, part of a larger privatisation effort demanded by the debt-wracked nation's foreign creditors.

The union suspended the strike on August 5 pending a final decision from the transport ministry on sector reform.

Transport Minister Yannis Ragoussis this week released the details of a new law that would reform how taxi licenses are bought and sold, while allowing for the creation of large taxi businesses and reducing the control of independent drivers.

The proposed law will "wipe out the sector" while serving "the interests of big business" and amount to a "tombstone" for some 70,000 families, the POEIATA drivers' organisation said Thursday, in announcing the strike.

The new law also sets down criteria for the individuals that can qualify for a taxi license, while cracking down on the unregulated trade of licenses and improving performance in a sector notorious its poor service delivery.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund bail-out packages needed to save Greece from bankrupty came with tough reform demands, including increased privatisation and a clamp down on black market trade.

Meanwhile, university students were also set to demonstrate in several Greek cities Thursday to protest an education reform bill approved last month.

The reform aims to improve the operation of universities marred by chronic waste of state funds and curb massive spending on overseas education, a practice common among many Greek families.

The overhaul has been criticised by many academics and leftist political parties who say it puts undue emphasis on business-oriented degrees, but was backed on August 24 in a rare show of unity by the ruling Socialists and the opposition Conservatives.

On August 31, students, many affiliated to radical and communist movements, staged sit-ins at some 40 institutions to voice opposition to the law.