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Greek truck drivers block roads in protest

ATHENS, Greece — Protesting truck drivers blocked traffic on Greece’s two busiest highways and clashed with police in front of parliament today, as lawmakers approved a shake-up of labor market rules as part of an agreement for international rescue loans.

The drivers, protesting for a 10th day, sealed off the highways outside Athens minutes after parliament voted in favor of legislation to scrap restricted licensing rules for trucks.

Protesters have been camped outside parliament since yesterday. They scuffled today with police, who responded with pepper spray.

Greece has promised to reform its labor market as part of austerity measures agreed in return for €110 billion ($144 billion) in rescue loans from European countries and the International Monetary Fund.

After changing rules for truck drivers, the Socialist government has promised to introduce similar reforms to end so-called closed-shop professions, including pharmacists, lawyers and architects.

“Greece is the only country out of the 27 in the European Union that still has these restricted rules (for truckers),” Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas told parliament. “Everyone knew this reform had to happen.”

In a week of escalating protests, workers at the state-run Hellenic Railways held a five-hour work stoppage, while local government workers are planning a strike tomorrow.

Protesting farmers’ marker workers, angry at new tax rules, are also on strike and set up stalls outside the Finance Ministry, where they handed out peaches and slices of watermelon to passers by.

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