Spanish truck drivers announce three-day strike ahead of Christmas

by Deborah Cater
truck drivers will strike in December

As diesel prices continue to rise, the transportation sector calls for urgent action from the government. They accuse the politicians of “neglect”. Truck drivers say they are at breaking point.

Spain’s National Road Transportation Committee (CNTC or CETM) announced on Wednesday a three-day strike, between December 20 and 22. It is in protest against what it calls the government’s failure to address a crisis in the sector.

The CNTC issued a press release on Wednesday evening, accusing the Spanish government of  “neglect,” saying “all reasonable channels of negotiation have been exhausted.” The strike was called following a meeting with Jaime Moreno, the managing director of Ground Transportation.

Rise in cost of diesel

The CNTC said the action was in response to the “exorbitant rise” in the cost of diesel. They described is as the “deathblow to a sector that has been struggling since before the pandemic.” Diesel represents around one-third of the industry’s costs.

However, the CNTC is open to further negotiation with the coalition Spanish government. “Only radical and urgent change from the government and clients [in reference to the companies that hire trucking services] can prevent this conflict,” the document stated.

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What effect on Christmas?

If the strike takes place, it could negatively affect the supply chain ahead of Christmas. These are key days for business, when more is sold than at any other time of the year. The last time this sector went on national strike from the sector took place it was in June 2008. At the beginning of the financial crisis, it led to massive bottlenecks and fuel shortages.

The sudden rise in the cost of diesel this year is the final straw for the industry. The committee alluded to “several years” of negotiations in the press release. There are several thorny issues, such as banning drivers from having to load and unload freight, the Euroviñeta road toll for heavy transportation, creating safe rest spaces and the automatic renewals of fees that reflect the rise in the cost of fuel. The final issue is a measure the sector said is not being met.

No understanding of the treatment workers suffer

According to the press release, these problems are compounded by “the absolute lack of sensitivity from our clients […] who take advantage of their position of power granted to them by the current regulation on contracting road freight transportation.”

The CNTC added the “degrading and inhumane treatment” suffered by workers at the hands of clients is also to blame for the shortage of professional truck drivers in the country. There is currently a shortfall of around 15,000 drivers in Spain. Whilst this shortfall is not a major factor, it is contributing to the global supply chain crisis.

The drivers are suffering due to the rise in fuel costs. “You cut expenses one way or another. You push back revisions, changing the wheels… As we say among ourselves, you start eating away at the truck,” José Ramón Jimeno, a self-employed truck driver, told EL PAÍS recently. “Not even by working the maximum hours allowed by the tachograph do you make enough. We either pass on this rise in prices or many of us are going to fall.”

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