Greek cabbies suspend tourism-disrupting strike

Monday 10 October 2011 16:50

Greek taxi owners on Friday agreed to suspend a strike that had disrupted thousands of travellers at the height of the country's vital tourism season for nearly three weeks.

"The mobilisation is suspended until September 5," the union of taxi owners said in a statement, according to state television NET, after an emergency union meeting voted by a majority to end the strike.

The taxi owners, who oppose a government deregulation of the sector, agreed to end their action after regional governors pledged not to issue new cab licences pending final decisions by the transport ministry later this month.

In addition to refusing to carry passengers since July 18, the strikers had also blocked highways and disrupted access to airports and harbours, forcing thousands of tourists to miss scheduled site tours.

The mobilisation began after a new transport minister appointed in June ditched a plan agreed by his predecessor with unions that would have capped the number of taxi licences based on the population in each region.

Taxi owners argue that full liberalisation will cause a cabbie glut and sink the value of their operating licences, which used to change hands for six-figure sums.

The deregulation is among structural reforms demanded by Greece's international creditors the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, in exchange for loans needed to save the country from defaulting on its debt.

Greece's travel sector, which makes up around a fifth of the economy, needs extra revenue from foreigners this year.

Because a recession fuelled by crash austerity measures has bitten into Greeks' spare income, domestic tourism is down 20 percent this summer according to Greek tourism and hotel operators.

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