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Taxi drivers are worried that the tourist sector will threaten their livelihood

17 July 2012 / 19:07:20  GRReporter
2714 reads

Victoria Mindova

A new wave of concern is rising after the Trade Union of taxi drivers sent a warning letter to the government, that it is expecting the state administration not to liberalize their sector, otherwise they will take new strike actions.

From the letter it became clear, that the Union considers a threat the will of entrepreneurs from the tourist business to remove the limitations for granting of licences to taxi drivers according to regions and population. The already former Minister of Transport Yiannis Ragousis tried to pass such a plan a year and a half ago, but it met serious resistance by the workers’ organization. Last year, there were constant taxi drivers’ strikes in Greece during the whole summer, which cost the tourist enterprises considerable resources. His successor in the temporary government of Lucas Papadimos, Makis Voridis, revoked the law and the noise around the liberalization of transport calmed down. Nevertheless, the country’s debts towards Greece’s institutional creditors remain, and a flow of new “blood” and money in various sectors are necessary for the activation of the principles of market economy. The Chairman of the Greek National Tourism Organization, Athanasios Adrianopoulos, also insists that the government should remove the limitations from the transport market, so that the prices of internal transfers fall and competitive power strengthens.

Before taking any specific measures for market liberalization, the Trade Union of taxi drivers decided to show Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that it won’t just sit and wait, if changes in current politics occur. GRReporter contacted the chairman of the syndical organization, Euthymios Limberopoulos, who said that in some areas, the turnover has fallen to 60%-70%. “We see that various interests have started llobbying for the opening of our profession. Hotel owners, tourist agents and other types of entrepreneurs want to take away our livelihood.”

According to Liberopoulos, 90% of the clients using taxi services are Greeks. “Since the deepening of the crisis, people have stopped taking taxis. Our clients are ordinary people, going to work at the office, in the factory, at the state institution or pensioners. These are the people who take a taxi in Greece. Now they can’t afford our services, although prices here are some of the lowest in Europe.” Limberopoulos says that the Union he represents not only declares itself against the liberalization of the transport market, but requires immediate actions by the government in order to restore economic growth. After citizens regain their standard of living, taxis’ work will be able to recover, he says and emphasizes that this cannot happen while Greece is meeting its obligations according to the Memorandum of financial assistance.

Questioned whether new active strike actions by taxi drivers are expected to block Athens, Limberopoulos answered elusively. After unconvincing and indirect comments, the syndicalist explained that if the people rise again in mass protests against the government’s politics, drivers will not be absent from the strike rows. He added quickly: “Our letter’s character is not offensive to the government. We just want them to pay attention to our concerns.”

Limitations removal in the economy is a major measurement on which Greek creditors rely for the recovery of the country in difficulty. Part of Greece’s obligations, according to the Memorandum of financial assistance, is the creation of conditions for free development of enterprises and activities. The number of taxi licenses, regulated by the state, in the past 20 years created over-demand and their price on the black market rose to peak values. Before the crisis climax, the licence for driving a taxi could reach 180-200 thousand euro, without the car’s expenses. When the profession is freed, the licence’s price will fall to five thousand euro. This change will affect new drivers who had bought their permissions for a taxi months before Greece’s actual financial collapse.

Tags: Economics Markets strikes taxi drivers Greece protests Euthymios Limberopoulos
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