Libcom.org Jul 29 2010
Truck drivers carrying fuel stand their ground and continue their strike
against the austerity measures despite the government calling a civil
conscription on them
The fuel carrying truck drivers strike which started on Monday in response
to a special "reform", part and parcel of the austerity measures, that
will see individual ownership abolished and replaced by large firms, has
been the first strike crisis facing the greek government after the signing
of the EU-IMF structural adjustment agreement. As a result of the strike
at the moment of writing all but a few gas stations across the country
stand dry and shut, with serious problems caused in boat and bus transport
as well as in individual car transport at the peak of the summer exodus
from the cities. The strike is believed to be hampering the tourist
industry which has reported a virtual freeze on reservations from abroad.
The government's response to the strike has been to call the truck drivers
for dialogue on the condition they stop the strike. The truck drivers
refusal to attend such onerous negotiations led yesterday evening the PM
to announce a civil conscription of the drivers and their trucks, an
authoritarian administrative measure equivalent to forced labour in pain
of prison. The truck drivers response has been defiant: last night after
the announcement of civil conscription drivers pulled their trucks to
blockade the oil refineries of Thessaloniki and Aspropyrgos (Athens),
while at the moment of writing a demo outside the Ministry of Transport is
forming in protest to the authoritarian administrative decision. Faced
with resistance the government has not yet used force to force
conscription with truck-driver reps announcing: "We continue. Let them
take us to prison. We have nothing to more to lose. If the government
thinks that after two days of strike it can move to such measures instead
choosing dialogue, it carries all responsibility" .
The response of the Left to the crisis has been bitter. The KKE (Communist
Party) asked in Parliament if the government intends to reopen
exile-island concentration camps for dissidents, while the Radical Left
Coalition has called the conscription a "July coup d' etat" and the
government policy "colonialist". Civil conscription of workers has
occurred again under the Republic at least three times, in 1979 (bank
workers), 1986 (airspace control officers) and 2006 (dock-workers).
Jul 29 2010 13:40
Update: The truck driver demo outside the Ministry of Transport in Athens
was attacked earlier today by riot police forces shooting tear gas against
the protesters. According to mainstream news the lack of fuel has already
led to problems of delivering supplies to supermarkets across the country.
The government is yet to implement civil conscription which could really
derail the situation. According to the news at the moment less than 5 gas
stations in greater Athens hold fuel.
What is civil conscription?
At this moment, the socialist government of PASOK has just ordered the
so-called "civil conscription" of lorry drivers, who have been on strike
for a fourth consecutive day. International media described this as an
"emergency order", but it is well worth to look a bit deeper into this
measure, as it is now likely that it will concern us time and time again
during the forthcoming winter.
(text below shamelessly copied and translated from corporate media)
What is civil conscription?
Civil conscription (politiki epistratefsi) is the conscription of personal
services, that is, the compulsory provision of personal services of those
conscripted – and it can be called based on Law Decree 17/1974 "Regarding
the Political Planning of State of Emergency". The decree in question
states that a state of emergency is every sudden situation caused either
by physical or other events or anomalies of every kind and which results
in the obstruction and disruption of the country's financial and social
More specifically, article 18 of the 17/1974 Decree allows the civil
conscription of personal in the case of their political mobilisation. The
Decree was issued before the 1975 Constitution and is [therefore] based
upon the Constitution of 1952.
Everyone called to offer their services are issued with a "personal invite
to political conscription". The responsibility for the overseeing of this
procedure falls with the local prefectures.
Refusing to accept the conscription letter has legal consequences. In this
case, the emergency court procedure is initiated (autoforo) and those who
refuse the letter must be arrested and stand trial. In the case that the
recipient of the letter is absent, the letter must be pasted on their
front-door and the recipients must be immediately located by the police.
Chronicle of civil conscriptions
- 1979- conscription of bank clerks, as their strike had "paralysed" the
- 1983- conscription of the drivers of road tankers.
- 1986- conscription of the flying mechanics of Olympic Airways
- 1994- conscription of the buses of civilians who were co-operating with
the Transport Organisation of Athens
- 2002- civil conscription of the striking dockworkers, following the
serious problems caused by the isolation of the greek islands
- 2006- civil conscription of the striking dockworkers
Jul 30 2010 15:32
Update: In yet another defiant move, the truck drivers have decided today
to continue their strike. The president of the union declared after the
conclusion of the general assembly: "We continue, we have not come here to
mourn our summer vacation leave". The truck drivers are reported to have
hailed the decision in festive mode singing "our president is mad!",
forming a protest march to the Parliament to deliver their decision. The
official announcement of the union underlined: "There is no tomorrow, our
only hope is in the strike".
At the same time the conscription measures have collapsed both due to the
resistance of the truck drivers who are finding ever more ingenious ways
of not being found (the order must be personally delivered) and because of
the masses of paperwork involved having caused the system to collapse upon
its own dead weight. The government has summoned a meeting of national and
local authorities to discuss the implementation of the conscription. The
Coalition of the Radical Left has urged the government to withdraw the law
as the only way out of the crisis. At the time of writing less than 50 gas
stations have remaining fuel reserves in Athens for over 5 million
Jul 30 2010 20:57
Update3: Clashes erupted late this afternoon between truck drivers and
riot police units in Thessaloniki when the former formed a blockade to
stop a scabbing lorry from taking fuel out of the main oil refinery of the
region. during the clashes 5 strikers were injured. At the same time the
government has announced that it will take all legal measures against the
defiant strikers, including canceling their work permits, while at the
same time mobilising the armed forces to supply petrol to hospitals,
electricity producing units and other public facilities, while the Navy
will try to cover supplies to stranded islands. At the same time the
government is mobilising all its media strings in order to vilify the
strike and excuse its dictatorial measures against it.
Greece turns to military to restore fuel supplies
By DEREK GATOPOULOS, Associated Press Jul 30, 2010
ATHENS, Greece – Greece said Friday it will use military trucks, navy
vessels and commandeered fuel tankers to restore gasoline supplies cut by
a strike that has hurt the country's industry and vital tourism trade at
the height of vacation season.
Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis told The Associated Press that the
emergency plan would take effect "as quickly as possible" to insure that
vital public services were not affected by the protest, which is in its
Earlier, striking truckers vowed to continue their protest in defiance on
an emergency order to return to work.
Clashes broke out at an oil refinery in northern Greece leaving two people
hurt, police said, after strikers clashed with riot police while trying to
block a government-seized truck from leaving.
Greece is racing to push through austerity measures needed to secure
continued international rescue loans to prop up its debt-strapped economy,
with the next loan installment due in mid-September.
Inspectors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund are
currently in Athens to review progress of cost-cutting reforms.
"The law will be upheld," Petalotis said. "Our information is that most
mobilization notices have now been handed out. Those who do not comply are
violating the law and can lose their operating license and face the
consequences of criminal prosecution."
The truckers have rejected a compromise offer by the government to offset
the financial impact of liberalizing their closed-shop profession.
Click image to see photos of clash in Athens
Sweeping labor reforms targeting previously protected professional groups
follow months of strikes and protests over other belt-tightening measures
that included sale tax hikes, and cuts in pensions and civil service pay
â" all in the midst of recession that has seen unemployment spike to
around 12 percent.
The fuel strike has hurt Greek industry and tourism, with shortages likely
to affect travel this weekend.
"This is a catastrophe. The decision was taken on the busiest day of the
year, at peak season ... I don't know what's worse, what is actually
happening today or the bad publicity this is giving us," George Telonis,
head of the Greek Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies, told The
"The season so far has not gone too badly, with about a 3 percent drop on
the year, despite all the strikes and difficulties ... because we have a
very strong product. But I am very worried that damage will be done if
this strike continues," he added.
He said the fuel strike will hammer last-minute bookings and popular
holiday excursions to beaches and ancient sites.
Hoteliers at resorts in northern Greece, which are mostly accessed by car,
have reported a steeper drop in bookings this year — more than 15 percent,
according to their associations.
"We are helping customers find open gas stations so that they can get
home," said Grigoris Tasios, head of the Halkidiki Hotel Association, of
resorts in northern Greece. "About one or two gas stations are currently
supplied in a 50-kilometer (30-mile) radius, when normally there would be
at least 10."
George Amvrazis, managing director of the Greek Hotel Federation, said the
strikes had already tarnished Greece's image.
"This has taken a toll on mainland resorts. You won't set out to a resort
if you're not sure if you can fill up your gas tank," Amvrazis said. "This
current protest, together with all the others, has set the Greece brand
back for years."