Spain’s trucker strike loses momentum as most transport restored

After 15 days of uninterrupted transport stoppages in Spain that have caused shortages and spurred on other protests, the country's main transport association has reported that activity on Monday returned “practically to normal”. 

Spain's trucker strike loses momentum as most transport restored
Despite this practical return to normality, some truck drivers in Spain will continue striking. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

The haulier strike that ground much of Spain’s logistical and transport machine to a halt last week appears to be losing steam. 

After the agreement signed by the Spanish Government with the majority of transport associations last Friday, Spain’s main haulier associations have spoken of “practical normality” on the roads at the start of this week.

Spain’s fishing sector has also resumed economic activities as hauliers once again enter and leave the country’s ports.

Spain’s Confederation of Freight Transport (CETM), the main transport employee body in the country, has reported that on Monday there were “many more trucks driving” than in the previous days.

They did however acknowledge that there was some ongoing strike action in Galicia, Asturias, the Basque Country and Ciudad Real, where lorries’ wheels continue to be punctured by protesters.

Over the past two weeks, Spaniards have watched with concern as a lorry drivers’ strike snowballed and then spurred mass protests by farmers and fishermen, industrial production stoppages and taxi driver demonstrations. 

Record inflation levels as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have fuelled growing anger among many Spanish workers as energy and fuel prices have gone through the roof.

Their strike action has had plenty of knock-on effects, from picketing causing traffic jams on Spanish roads to the lack of transport resulting in shortages of fuel, building materials, food products and even the risk of halting tap water dispensation in northern Spain. 

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

The Spanish government’s offer to subsidise up to 20 cents per litre of fuel on Friday March 25th was initially rejected by striking truckers as demonstrators convened in Madrid.

By Monday March 28th, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez unveiled a new set of measures aimed at alleviating the economic impact of the Ukraine war on Spain’s economy, with benefits for ordinary citizens and further improvements for the transport sector.

EXPLAINED: The plan to lessen Ukraine war impact on Spain’s economy

Despite this practical return to normality, the National Platform in Defence of Transport – the organisation that called the strikes in the first place – has assured that they will continue with their protests until the Spanish government responds to their demands, namely more subsidies to cover spiralling fuel costs.

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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.