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Strike by leading Spanish truckers rejects new government aid package

Truck drivers protest in Madrid
Striking truck drivers protest against high fuel prices and working conditions in Madrid, Spain, March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Susana Vera

March 25, 2022

MADRID (Reuters) – A group of truck drivers in Spain on Friday rejected a government offer to double a support package to help with soaring fuel prices and vowed to continue a 12-day strike that has left shortages and businesses forced to reduce production.

The proposed measures, which include a rebate of 0.20 euros ($0.22) per liter of fuel and a bonus of 1,200 euros, will cost the government about 1 billion euros, twice as much as an earlier package passed earlier this week was unveiled, Transport Secretary Raquel Sanchez told reporters after talks that ran through Thursday night.

The rebate on fuel prices, a quarter of which is paid by oil companies, also applies to other transport companies, she added. Bus, pickup truck, ambulance and taxi drivers also receive bonuses, albeit smaller ones.

“We have always been aware of the hardship that the transport industry, like other sectors, faces when hit by the energy crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” she told a predawn press conference on Friday.

Within hours, the group of truck drivers who started the strike on March 14 had rejected the proposal, and protesters on foot began to block La Castellana, one of Madrid’s main thoroughfares.

“We will not call off the strike,” the group said in a statement on its Facebook account. “You will not deceive us.”

But three transport associations, which joined the strike last week after finding the government’s initial offer inadequate, backed Friday’s proposal.

The strike began when a group of drivers and pickup truck owners began blocking roads and ports in response to rising costs, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The transport minister told radio station Onda Cero that she was ready to meet representatives of this group, who did not take part in Thursday’s negotiations.

Taxi drivers also protested in parts of the country and the national fishing fleet temporarily suspended operations.

The Spanish business association CEOE complained on Wednesday that the government had acted too slowly compared to neighboring countries France and Portugal.

Retailers have urged consumers not to panic buy, stressing that although some goods are in short supply, food supplies are secure.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen, Belen Carreno and Inti Landauro, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Bobby Allyn

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