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.”
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).
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.
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.