Greek truckers protest outside parliament

More than 2,500 protesting truck drivers marched through Athens today to stage a vigil outside parliament in continuing demonstrations against planned labour market reforms.

Tonight riot police used tear gas to disperse a group of protesters who tried to break a police cordon and damaged a sentry post used by the ceremonial guard at the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb outside parliament.

No arrests or injuries were reported, and truckers said the violence was provoked by people who were not part of their protest.

Unionists said they planned to spend the night in front of the parliament building – where the proposed reforms are being debated over the next two days.

Brief scuffles broke out earlier as some protesters threw plastic bottles of water and cups of coffee at riot police, who responded with stun grenades.

Truckers have lined up their vehicles along motorways and busy Athens roads since September 13 to protest at plans to abolish so-called closed-shop professions, which have jobs protected by fixed fees and rates and strict licensing rules.

The new rules will eventually affect a number of other professional groups, including pharmacists and civil engineers.

Truck drivers say the changes are too abrupt and will bankrupt those of their colleagues who have borrowed money to buy a truck licence.

Greece has promised to reform its labour market as part of austerity measures agreed in return for €110bn in rescue loans from European countries and the International Monetary Fund.

Labour unions fiercely oppose the austerity, arguing that less well-off Greeks are suffering disproportionately.

earlier today the umbrella civil servant union Adedy called a 24-hour strike on October 7, the eve of a hearing in Greece’s highest administrative court of a legal challenge by unions and bar associations against the deal that secured the loans.

Also, workers at Greece’s loss-making state railways will hold two five-hour strikes on tomorrow and Thursday to protest government plans to cut their salaries and open railways to private competition.

Greece remains effectively blocked from borrowing on the bond market, due to high interest rates. But today the government announced another successful sale of short-term debt.

The state debt management agency said it raised €390m by selling 13-week treasury bills.

The sale was oversubscribed by 6.25 times, with a yield of 3.98% – and together with successful debt auctions in Spain and Ireland, helped ease fears over Europe’s debt crisis.

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