Truck drivers defiant despite conscription orders in Greece

Truck drivers defiant despite conscription orders in Greece

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).

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Jul 29 2010 07:32


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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.

Jul 29 2010 16:41

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 life.

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.

Conscription procedures

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 banking sector.

- 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 29 2010 19:00

taxikipali: its great to have your updates again! Thanks a lot mate! smile

Jul 29 2010 20:41

Thanks a lot Ed! The latest news is that the drivers have renewed their strike until tomorrow when they are holding an assembly to decide its continuation or not. One question is why foreign media like the BBC and the Guardian are avoiding to translate civil conscription (politiki epistratefsi) literally. Are they trying to protect their readers from the reality of militarism at the heart of european democracy?

Jul 30 2010 10:11

taxi: that sounds about right.

Jul 30 2010 12:06

Keep up the good work taxi.

The Guardian, like the BBC, is part of the voice of British imperialism and as such has nothing to do with any sort of "objective" reporting (look at The Guardian's coverage of the New Orleans flood to see what a nasty, insidious, racist rag this really is under its "liberal" credentials).

Today, The Guardian has a piece on Greece and the ever-growing fuel shortages (affecting the islands now - "from the penisula of Chalkidiki in the north to Rhodes in the sourth"), with news that officials are asking tourists to fill up if driving in from outside Greece.

This item falls under national news because of its effects on millions of British tourists. It talks about the extensive strikes and of some "emergency" measures ("four since 74"). Although a "news" item, it concludes by saying words to the effect that most Greeks understand the depth of its crisis and the need for austerity (much the same as it says about the working class in Britain).

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 residents.

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.

Armchair Anarchist
Jul 31 2010 09:28
Aug 1 2010 00:46

What are the possibilities of this strike generalising? Are the truckdrivers making any attempts to link up with other workers and encourage solidarity strikes? This seems to be a crucial moment in the attempt to roll back the austerity measures, to state the bleedin' obvious(!)

Aug 1 2010 09:27

Update: All signs today are that the stalemate between truck drivers and the government is leading to some mutual compromise. On the one hand, military trucks are slowly refueling stations and facilities across the country, yet on the other hand the civil conscription measures have completely collapsed.

As a result, it seems likely that the truck drivers today will declare a postponement of the strike in return of promises made yesterday by the government to lift the measure of civil conscription and re-engage in dialogue. The government is asking from the drivers to postpone their strike until the end of the negotiations, in a hope to save the summer vacation peak season and reverse the effects of the strike on tourism.

It thus more than surprising to read today's guardian and bbc reportage that portray greece as in conditions "not unsimilar to pre-Bolshevik revolutionary Russia" [the guardian]. Of course such claims only reflect the reporters' utter ignorance of conditions in the country and their desire for sensationalist story-telling.

Aug 2 2010 01:09

Looks like its ended.. :(

BBC wrote:
Greek drivers vote to end strike
Lorry drivers in Greece have ended a week-long strike against plans to reform the freight industry and agreed to resume talks with the government.

The union decision, approved by a narrow margin, came after the army was mobilised to deliver fuel to key sites.