Lorry drivers in Spain continued a strike over fuel prices that has caused widespread disruption and food shortages as the government sought to reach a deal with them on Friday.
Self-employed haulage workers went on strike on March 14th, arguing that high fuel prices meant they were working at a loss and demanding government intervention to help them. With the strikers blocking roads and ports, their protest has hindered distribution of many products, causing chaos in the food sector and other industries.
Petrol prices rose by 25 per cent and diesel by 28 per cent in the year up to February 2021, according to Spain’s National Statistics Institute, and the cost of both has continued to spiral in recent weeks in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Spain is also seeing a broader cost-of-living crisis with inflation at nearly 8 per cent.
“They can’t make us work at a loss; we’re condemned to being ruined,” said Manuel Hernández, president of the National Platform for the Defence of Transport, which has led the strike. “We spend less by doing nothing than by working.”
Mr Hernández and other lorry drivers took part in a demonstration on Friday outside the transport ministry in central Madrid to demand concessions from the government.
The striking drivers remained dissatisfied with a package of measures worth more than €1 billion that the government had unveiled in the early hours of the morning. Among them was a discount of 20 cent on each litre of fuel purchased by haulage workers, which the government says will save each of them about €700 per month.
The administration of Socialist Pedro Sánchez negotiated the package with haulage firms, rather than with the protesting self-employed drivers.
For the first 11 days of the strike, the government refused to engage directly with the protesters, describing them as far-right radicals. However, on Friday evening, transport minister Raquel Sánchez met with representatives of the National Platform for the Defence of Transport in the hope of ending the strike.
Several food companies have temporarily suspended operations in recent days because of difficulties distributing products. Dairy producers have been particularly affected, leaving many supermarket shelves empty. Other industries have also been affected, among them car makers. Volkswagen’s factory in Navarre closed down on Monday because it was not receiving parts.
Mauricio García de Quevedo, head of the Federation of Food and Drink Industries, warned that “the supply chain is in a poorer state than in the worst moments of the pandemic”.