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LIFE IN SPAIN

Strikes set to continue as Spanish truckers reject government offer

The Spanish government's offer to subsidise up to 20 cents per litre of diesel has been rejected by striking truckers as supermarket shortages continue and demonstrators convene in Madrid.

Strikes set to continue as Spanish truckers reject government offer
Truck drivers gather during a demonstration in the Spanish Navarre city of Pamplona on March 15, 2022. Photo: Ander Gillena/AFP.

After negotiating for over twelve hours on Thursday March 24th, the Spanish government has made a preliminary agreement with a major transport union to subsidise fuel for striking truck drivers.

However, as is common in Spanish trade union politics, there are several smaller disparate union groups organising the haulage shutdown that have rejected the offer and will continue the strike into a third week.

The offer effectively represents a 20 percent reduction in fuel prices for truckers between April 1st and June 30th, but after refusing to negotiate with the unions who actually called the strike – likened to the ‘far-right’ by some in cabinet – the government have instead worked with a national union, Comité Nacional de Transporte por Carretera, that doesn’t even represent the majority of the striking truckers.

The organisers of the strike, Plataforma Nacional por la Defensa del Transporte – unnamed in the agreement and unrecognised by government – rejected the proposal, have called a demonstration in Madrid on Friday morning outside the Ministry of Transport and say they will continue with strike action until they are received by the government for direct negotiations, something the government has, until now, refused outright.

However, with political pressure building and hundreds of protestors already gathered in Madrid on Friday morning, the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, has hinted that the government may be willing to negotiate with the group.

Speaking on Spanish radio programme Más de Uno in the last few minutes, Sánchez stated that she does “not rule out receiving the convening platform.”

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

The government has until this morning seemed intent on continuing without the smaller union groups, and refuses to recognise their legitimacy. “We are talking to the right spokespeople,” Minister of Economic Affairs Nadia Calviño said on Thursday. “I hope an agreement is reached, there is the will.”

The proposed deal

The framework agreement made in the early hours of Friday morning would be worth over 1 billion to the haulage sector, of which 600 million will be used to subsidise 15 cents per litre of fuel, added to another 5 cents – minimum – contributed by fuel companies themselves.

The government claims this amounts to approximate monthly savings of €700 per truck running on diesel, and another €450 million will also be made available in direct aid to both the freight and passenger transport sectors: reportedly €1,250 per truck, €950 per bus, €500 per van and €300 per light vehicle (such as taxis and ambulances).

The effects

As the strike action nears its third week, the knock-on effects are being felt across Spain on the roads and in supermarkets and restaurants. 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

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 aren’t any trucks to transport them around the country.

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

As of Friday morning, the situation remains fluid and it remains unclear if the government will actually negotiate with the striking truckers themselves, and demonstrators in Madrid have called for the resignation of Minister for Transport Raquel Sánchez as a condition of ending the strike.

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WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

KEY POINTS: What changes in Spain in July 2022?

July sees the start of the summer holidays in Spain and brings with it new crisis handouts, VAT cuts on energy bills, travel chaos and a possible deal on UK driving licences. Join The Local Spain as a member to find out about this and plenty more.

KEY POINTS: What changes in Spain in July 2022?

€200 crisis payment available in July 

As part of their new draft of measures to help those struggling with the rising cost of living, the Spanish government announced they would give a one-off €200 handout to the most vulnerable individuals.

The payment plan is set to be activated this month and you can find out who is eligible and how to apply for it here.

According to Spain’s Tax Minister María Jesús Montero, approximately 2.7 million people in Spain will be able to benefit from the scheme. Individuals can request the €200 payment, as can families, but only one payment per household is allowed.

VAT on electricity bills cut by half 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez recently announced that the government would apply a further reduction in VAT on electricity bills, which has now been approved by the cabinet. This means that a VAT reduction, from 10 to five percent, will be applied to electricity bills from July onwards.  

Find out how much you could save on your electricity bill with the new VAT discount here

Travel chaos continues

In the lead-up to the summer holidays, there has been travel chaos across Europe, including in Spain, due to flight cancellations, staff shortages and strikes. Unfortunately, the travel misery is only set to continue into July as several Spain-based cabin crew, including those from easyJet, Ryanair and Lufthansa have announced strikes.

EasyJet staff are scheduled to go on a nine-day strike on July 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 15th, 16th, 17th, 29th, 30th and 31st. Meanwhile, the Ryanair strike, which started on June 24th will continue on July 1st and 2nd. Over 54 flights have already been cancelled by the low-cost airline and more than 300 have been delayed.

German carrier Lufthansa and its budget airline brand, Eurowings are also planning to cancel more than 3,000 flights this summer due to both staff shortages and strikes. This is expected to affect flights from the hubs of Frankfurt and Munich to Spain, among others. 

Could there finally be a deal on UK driving licences?

The British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott recently shared his latest update on the driving licence negotiations between the UK and Spain, indicating a possible agreement to have affected drivers back on the road by the end of July 2022.

“The UK and Spain are now in agreement on the core issues that have been problematic and we’re now very close to finalising the actual text of the agreement,” he explained.

This will be a great relief for many British residents in Spain who were unable to exchange their licence for a Spanish one and haven’t been allowed on the roads since May 1st 2022.

Scorching weather returns to Spain in July

After a brief respite from the mid-June heatwaves, the hot weather is set to return in July. According to the weather site Meteored, the first week of July will see storms and unpredictable weather in the north of the country, while temperatures could reach over 40°C in the south of the country around Córdoba and Seville.

The middle of the month from July 11th to 17th is set to see temperatures rise again. It’s likely that much of Extremadura and Andalusia will experience temperatures around 40°C, while it could also reach 38°C in Bilbao and Madrid.

The last two weeks of July will get even hotter with Meteored predicting the hottest temperatures of the whole year. Temperatures are expected to be above normal in all regions apart from along the Cantabrian coast and in the Canary Islands.

Summer sales go into full throttle

July 1st sees the official start of the summer sales throughout much of Spain, although many stores have started even earlier. With rising costs due to inflation, this is the time of year to benefit from some of the biggest discounts.

Amazon has two days scheduled for its sales from July 12th-13th, while H&M and all the retail stores belonging to Spanish clothing giant Inditex (Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull & Bear and Stradivarius) are also due to have their sales this month.

After the start of the sales, you’ll see signs for “segundas rebajas” (second sales), then “terceras rebajas” and finally “remate final” (final push), where discounts progressively go from 30 percent to 40, then 50 and finally down to an incredible 70 percent price reduction. 

Imserso holiday scheme for pensioners kicks off 

Imserso is a social scheme offering holidays to the elderly, which aim to offer subsidised trips to pensioners. Applications for the vacation scheme this year are open from June 27th to July 19th and usually run during the low season from October. Find out how to apply here.

Depending on the dates you go and the type of accommodation you stay in, you will usually have to pay between €115 and €405 for the trip.

Vehicles in Spain need to have Intelligent Speed Assistance

New cars sold in Spain and across the EU must have automatic Intelligent Speed Assistance technology from July 6th as part of the General Safety Regulation.

All newly launched models will need to have Intelligent Speed Assistance systems installed as standard. The idea is to limit speeds and warn drivers to slow down if they’re over the legal speed limit.

Festivals in Spain in July

July sees a whole host of festivals and celebrations across the country. Most famous are the San Fermín Running of the Bulls, held in Pamplona from July 6th – 14th and the Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol, held in the Galician city on July 25th.

Other festivities taking place in July include Bilbao’s BBK music festival from the 7th to the 9th and the Moors and Christians parades in Villajoyosa from the 23rd to 24th, commemorating the battle of 1538.

Pride celebrations are also set to return in July. Madrid’s LGBTIQ+ festival will take place from July 1st to 10th throughout many areas of the city but concentrated around Chueca.

New law to improve rights of domestic workers

A new law could be approved this month to improve the rights of domestic workers so that they have the same rights as other workers, such as the right to unemployment benefits and proper wages.

A third of the 536,100 domestics (mostly women) who work in Spain are not signed up to Spain’s social security system, according to the country’s Labour Force Survey. Two out of every three have earnings around the minimum wage bracket.

Early last year the Spanish government sent out letters to Spanish households who employ workers to warn them of their obligations.

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