Spanish lorry drivers strike began yesterday

Lorry Drivers begin an indefinite strike in protest against rising fuel costs

The Spanish National Transport Federation (Fenadismer), which for the most part consists of self employed lorry drivers began an indefinite strike at midnight last night to ask the government for help with rising fuel costs which have risen by 20.1% over the last year.

The strike does not have the backing of large transport companies in the sector, the main trade unions or the members of the Spanish Confederation of Goods Transport (CETM) whose representatives are very critical of the way the government is dealing with the strikes and the road blocks which are preventing other transport workers from carrying out their jobs and are causing chaos on Spanish roads.

The strike is affecting the flow of traffic in the AP-7 and the N-II in la Jonquera (Gerona), where there are pickets which have cut off routes used by lorries and consequently caused serious circulatory problems for all drivers and massive queues of lorries.

There are also similar problems in the access to La Reva industrial estate and in Riba-roja in Valencia. Traffic jams near the Spanish-French border in Irun are currently around 7 kilometres long and accesses to and from Madrid are also affected.

Yesterday there were long queues at a lot of petrol stations especially in Madrid with drivers worried about the lack of fuel supplies. Supplies were at minimum in many petrol stations in Barcelona where police this morning escorted lorries prevented from transporting fuel to petrol stations in Catalonia yesterday to Barcelona’s port so that they could fill up and take fuel to petrol stations around the city.

In a press conference the Director General of Road Transport Juan Miguel Sánchez said that a packet of measures would be presented around midweek in order to contain the effects of rising fuel costs for those in the transport sector.

The president of Fenadismer, Julio Villaescusa, said that it was incoherent to present the measures several days after the strike had begun.

The Director General of Road Transport played down the effect that rising fuel costs could have on inflation and said that 55 million euros would be used to offer help to self employed lorry drivers who were nearing retirement age and wanted to give up their jobs. Most of the drivers participating in the strike and barricades are self-employed drivers and do not belong to a trade union.

The European Commission is meeting in Brussels on Wednesday this week to study economic aid for the fishing sector as requested by Spain, France, Italy and Portugal and according to the European Commissioner for Fishing, Joe Borg, certain measures could be applied in the next few weeks.

The Spanish president, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, claimed this weekend that the government was fully aware of the impact of rising fuel costs and that all possible action would be taken to support those sectors of the economy most affected.
With regards to the transport strike Zapatero said that the government is prepared to «face the consequences» which is why a special committee of coordination met at the weekend to follow events and set up negotiations with the transport sector. However with increased chaos and hold-ups on the roads and the first sign of shortage of supplies in Spanish markets and supermarkets provoking panic-buying among Spanish consumers yesterday, the government is under increasing pressure to take a much more proactive role in the crisis.

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