Government agrees to help, but Spanish trucks vow to keep protest alive

by The Associated Press (APR)

Spain’s government and the country’s main trucking federations have reached an agreement on financial help for an industry that is hurting from high gas prices, but self-employed truckers said Friday they would continue a 12-day strike.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has helped drive gas prices higher in Europe, making it more expensive for truckers to fuel their vehicles.

After 12 hours of negotiations that ended after midnight, the Socialist-led government announced it is discounting 0.20 euros (US$0.22) per litre of gas for truckers as part of a package of measures worth more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). A litre of gas for truckers currently costs around 1.80 euros ($2).

Spanish Transport Minister Raquel Sanchez said the discount would translate into savings of around 700 euros ($771) a month per truck. The government said it would also provide 450 million euros ($495 million) in direct financial aid to road haulage businesses, as well as special credit terms.

“Platform” group to continue protest

The Platform for the Defense of the Road Transport Sector, which is not affiliated with Spain’s larger national trucking associations or road haulage companies and does not sit at the sector’s negotiating table with the government, called on its members to continue their strike and to attend a street protest in Madrid on Friday.

The group said it would not budge from its demands, which go beyond gas prices. It claims that large distribution companies engage in unfair competition, forcing down the prices for freight, and is seeking better working conditions for truckers, including retirement at age 60.

“After 12 days we’re not going to throw in the towel. It’s now or never,” the Platform said on its Facebook page.

The strike has disrupted supply chains and brought scattered shortages at stores of fresh products, such as vegetables, milk and fish. Thousands of police have escorted truck convoys and arrested picketers trying to stop working truckers.