MADRID – The consequences of the war in Ukraine are already being felt in Spain. Although diesel and petrol prices have been rising for months, they have reached record highs in recent days, partly due to the armed conflict. That is why self-employed truck drivers and SMEs in the sector are holding a transport strike for an indefinite period.
From midnight on March 14, thousands of SMEs and self-employed workers in the freight transport sector in Spain will stop their trucks. They protest against the ever-rising fuel prices and deteriorating working conditions. “We’re stopping our trucks and paralysing the country.” This announcement raises fears of shortages in supermarkets in the country.
“We’re paralysing the country”
The platform for the defense of the road freight sector called for the national strike. It represents small and medium-sized companies and freelancers from all over Spain. According to estimates by the organization itself, this concerns “85% of the sector”. They hope with their protest to paralyse the country and force the government to sit down with them. They demand better conditions for the sector.
“We represent the base of transport, we are the ones who have the trucks, we fill them with diesel, we wear out the tires and we pay salaries,” said Transport Platform president Manuel Hernández. He asks citizens for understanding given the possible stock shortage that could arise as a result of the indefinite strike.
“We work to ruin ourselves”
Hernández explains: ‘”We ask society to be aware of us. Our people are the same who we have continued to operate in inhumane conditions during the pandemic. But now we have no choice but to stop our trucks. Until we are heard by the authorities, unfortunately, we can’t drive anymore, because we are in the process of ruining ourselves,” explains Hernández.
No support for transport strike from employers or unions
The unions do not support the strike called for by the Transport Platform. Neither the main business organisations belong to the National Road Transport Committee (CNTC), while it is the only official interlocutor of employers to negotiate with the government.
‘Now is not the time’
According to the Spanish Confederation of Goods Transport (CETM), which is part of the National Committee, “this is not the time” for an indefinite strike. The Confederation has asked the government for urgent measures to limit the price of diesel. For example, by intervening in the fuel market.
For Hernández, “lowering the diesel price is not the solution” to the underlying transportation problem. The chairman of the Transport Platform accuses the National Committee of defending the interests of major operators for years. This would have put the sector in a situation of “total bankruptcy” with “bad practices”
“Bad Practices” from Employers
“This committee, made up mostly of major carriers and for the most part without trucks, cannot continue to dominate the future of thousands of families suffering from their bad practices towards the basic sector,” he says.
Until the last consequences
“We cannot continue to tolerate that 10% (major carriers integrated into the commission) manage the other 90%. The latter are truckers with their truck and also those who take risks,” adds the Transport Platform. It plans to maintain the strike – “with all the consequences” – until the government meets all demands.
“Risk of shortages”
The Transport Platform is a non-binding advisory committee. Still, many members are willing to stop their trucks. “I’m happy because I see people very excited and in the mood to participate. If our sector stops, we will paralyse the country. We will certainly react in five days,” sums up a truck driver who strike will support.
Paid drivers cannot participate in this transport strike
Those who cannot support the strike are professional drivers, as it is not a workers’ strike that the unions have called. “We wage earners cannot support this strike unless our bosses tell us to stop,” explains Basilio Aragón. This truck driver from Galicia agrees to the demands of the National Platform but does not support the strike. “I will never go hand in hand with the transport bosses when these bosses have been exploiting their employees for decades, it’s not suddenly a problem because of the price of diesel,” he says.
Citizens will be affected
This transport strike, of course, affects citizens. A halt in the transport sector can cause, first of all, the increase in the price of many products that, from today, will arrive at supermarkets by the dropper. This price increase would join the increase in the shopping basket that the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus and the partial blockage in the global supply chain has caused.