Clashes at Greek port as truckers resume protests

Riot police guard the port of Piraeus, near Athens, after minor clashes broke out at a truck drivers' picket line, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. Trucker drivers are protesting the overhaul of labor rules by Greece's Socialist government and have demonstrated since Sept. 13, leading to goods shortages in parts of Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
View photos
Riot police guard the port of Piraeus, near Athens, after minor clashes broke out at a truck drivers' picket line, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. Trucker drivers are protesting the overhaul of labor rules by Greece's Socialist government and have demonstrated since Sept. 13, leading to goods shortages in parts of Greece.

Protesting Greek truckers attacked trucks breaking a union picket and clashed with riot police at the country's main port of Piraeus Friday, pressing ahead with demonstrations that have hurt goods supplies in debt-ridden Greece.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of people who threw stones at trucks trying to enter ferries at the port outside Athens. No injuries or arrests were reported.

Greece's center-left government is fighting a major debt and deficit crisis that brought the country to the brink of a humiliating bankruptcy in May.

In return for a euro110 billion ($147.5 billion) package of rescue loans from European countries and the International Monetary Fund over the next three years, Athens undertook painful austerity measures intended to bring the budget deficit within EU constraints by 2014.

The cutbacks have angered unions and sparked a series of strikes and protests. Next week, state railway workers will hold a series of walkouts against planned pay cuts and opening of the rail market to private competition.

The government says the reforms will ensure survival for the debt-laden railway company, which loses up to euro1 billion ($1.3 billion) a year.

Truckers' unions on Friday rejected a government compromise offer and vowed to continue protests that started on Sept. 13 against an overhaul of market labor rules.

The reforms, approved by parliament Wednesday, scrap license restrictions for truck drivers and mark the start of a broader reform to end so-called closed-shop professions that include lawyers, taxi drivers, notaries and pharmacists.

The drivers have lined their trucks along highways outside Greek cities and staged protests in central Athens this week.