The U.N. announced on Thursday, July 21 a plan to loan Greece 102 billion euros in a last-ditch attempt to save the country and the euro from further crisis. While this bailout is welcomed by many Greek leaders, not everyone is so thrilled with the idea. Accepting the bailout means major economic and job reform for Greece and its citizens, but many workers are not willing to make a change.
In a protest of the Europeanization of the Greek debt, many professionals essential to the tourist industry are staging a coup. Taxi drivers have been on an open-ended strike since Monday to protest proposed reforms to open their professions to outside competition. Doing so, a union member added, would put more than 15,000 taxi drivers (half of the nationwide total) out of business.
Hundreds of taxi unionists have clogged Greece's mainland and islands, disrupting traffic flow, highways and airport travel and leaving thousands of tourists stranded and upset. They show no signs of backing down. In addition to striking, drivers have blocked airports, cruise ship ports and roads.
A harbor police statement released on Thursday reported about 50 taxi drivers preventing more than 800 passengers from exiting three cruise ships on the island of Corfu. Taxi drivers also used their cars to stopped 2,400 passengers from leaving two cruise ships at the Cretan port of Iraklio and blocked three highways leading out of the city of Thessaloniki, literally trapping travelers on their boats.
Earlier this week, protesters blocked roads leading to Athens and Thessaloniki Airports.
The situation may get worse if the county's seamen make good on their threat to strike as well. Such an action would be devastating for Greece as it would freeze all ports, stopping any trade or commercial cruise ships from entering or exiting the harbors. The seamen are objecting to pension cuts included in the reform measures voted through Greece's Parliament last month.
This news hits especially hard as Greece was depending heavily on the country's tourism sector, which accounts for a fifth of the gross domestic product. Tourist numbers had been up nearly 10 percent from 2010, but if things continue as they are, they may see another drop.
According to the Transport Minister Yannis Ragoussis, The country is fighting for its survival ... and you have made a decision to hurt Greek society. Hundreds of tourists' vacations have been disrupted or abruptly cut short after dealings with the protesters, and government officials are saying that the strikers are only hurting themselves and their industry.
In an effort to show the government that their actions are not hurting the industry, on Wednesday drivers took over the ticket offices at Ancient Olympia and granted free admission for all tourists. Strikers also took over toll booths on several major roads, allowing motorists to pass through without paying.
While they can be thankful for that, many tourists don't seem to care about the taxi drivers struggles. They just want to get out of the blistering Greek heat and into an air conditioned taxi - something they can't seem to do right now.