UPDATE: How the truck drivers’ strike is affecting life in Spain

Strike action by Spanish truck drivers has caused disruption across the country in recent weeks. With a government offer rejected by unions on Friday March 25th, here’s how the industrial action is affecting Spain as it looks set to continue into a third week.

UPDATE: How the truck drivers' strike is affecting life in Spain
A man looks at an empty stand of legumes and cereals on the shelves of a supermarket in Madrid. For the past two weeks, Spain has been gripped by unrest which began on March 14 when lorry drivers began an open-ended strike over mounting fuel prices, staging roadblocks and picket lines and leaving supermarkets with empty shelves and several sectors struggling to cope. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

As the Spanish truck drivers’ strike over fuel prices edges towards a third week, smaller unions this morning rejected an agreement made between the government and one of the larger national unions Comité Nacional de Transporte por Carretera.

However, this group does not represent the majority of the striking truck drivers and smaller union groups rejected the offer of a 20 percent fuel subsidy. On Friday morning the organisers of the strikes, Plataforma Nacional por la Defensa del Transporte, called for the resignation of Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez and demonstrated in Madrid.

The strike action has affected Spaniards across the country, and can be felt on its motorways and supermarket aisles. Much like how rolls of toilet paper were in short-supply during the pandemic, perishable goods such as cartons of milk have now become more difficult to get hold of during the strikes and are a symbol of the shortages.

The Spanish government, which has linked the protests to the far-right, has mobilised 24,000 police officers to manage the strike by escorting truck drivers who aren’t taking part in the strikes. Around 45 protesters have also been arrested. 

Here’s how the industrial action is affecting the consumer heading into the weekend:


With truck drivers blocking key roads, ports, industrial areas and intersections with their vehicles, there have been reports of kilometre-long traffic jams in Madrid, the Valencia region, the Basque Country, Andalusia, Navarre, Galicia, Murcia and other parts of Spain. 

READ MORE: How soaring prices are fuelling growing social unrest in Spain

Food shortages

Supermarket shelves have been bare, with shortages of fruit and vegetables, milk, cheese, and other dairy products, and meat and fish in particular. The dairy sector has been severely affected, with thousands of litres of milk spoiling in factories as there’s nobody to transport them around the country. Flour and sunflower oil are also reportedly in short supply, and even sugar, pasta and rice can be hard to track down.

Bars and restaurants across Spain have also felt the effects of the strike action. Many have been forced to change or adapt their menus, or even put up their prices to recoup some of the losses.

Tap water

Northern Spain is at risk of running out of tap water in the coming days because a chemical used to make it drinkable isn’t being delivered to the treatment plants as a result of the trucker strike. If a solution isn’t found soon, José Luis Caravia, manager of Asturquimia (one of three companies in charge of managing tap water supplies in Spain) believes “the tap water supply should be interrupted and a health alert should be sent out” to the inhabitants of northern Spain that Asturquimia treats drinking water for.

Fuel shortages

The roadblocks made by truckers means that thousands of Spain’s petrol stations are struggling to get fuel deliveries on time. Spain’s automatic fuel station association Aesae on Monday warned that the haulier strike is now causing a shortage of petrol and diesel at gas stations in Andalusia, Murcia and the Valencia region in particular.

Building materials

The construction sector has also been affected. In Andalusia, employers have warned of a lack of concrete and there are already reports of construction projects being paused as a result of the strike in Cádiz and Seville.

Nursing homes

Nursing and care home workers have also complained of knock-on effects. It is reportedly becoming increasingly difficult for care homes in northern Spain – particularly Asturias – to receive specialist food deliveries necessary for the diets of their elderly and ill patients.


Hundreds of companies in the forestry and timber industry have also complained of late deliveries to compound the ongoing problems of rising fuel and energy prices they had been enduring.

Automotive industry

Buying a new car in Spain or getting a spare part is also being made harder by the transporters’ strike action.

Volkswagen and Ford as well as tire manufacturer Bridgestone have temporarily closed their factories in Spain as their production lines have been paralysed by hauliers’ picketing and roadblocks, whilst Opel and Mercedes have also been forced to reduce operations. 


March is the month during which 70 percent of flowers are cut for the entire year. This year however, many flowers are sitting in cold storage when they should have been in shops and supermarkets across Spain long ago.

“The situation isn’t dramatic, it’s far worse than that,” the head of Andalucía’s cut flower association Luis Manuel Rivera told Spanish news site Nius Diario.

“The chambers are full after 5 days without even a single flower being taken out, so they will have to be thrown away. The same as with the flowers that are in the greenhouses that have to be collected, they should go to the storage chambers but instead they’ll have to go to be binned”.


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Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.