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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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”.