Ministers leaving after the meeting in the early hours of Friday morning. / efe

Spanish government agrees to reduce fuel prices, but the hauliers' strikes still continue

Prices will be discounted by 20 céntimos a litre and there will be 450 million euros of assistance for the sector. The measure will be in force until 30 June but can be extended if necessary

CLARA ALBA Madrid

After more than 15 hours of negotiations which began at 11.30am on Thursday and are said to have been very tense at times, it was agreed that the government will take action to offset the “disproportionate” rise in fuel prices with a package of 30 measures which will cost them one billion euros.

The most important measure as far as the hauliers are concerned is that fuel will be 20 céntimos per litre cheaper, with the government paying 15 céntimos of this discount and the oil companies the other five. This will continue until 30 June, but can be extended if the spiralling prices continue.

The government will also provide direct assistance to hauliers and passenger transport companies, at a cost of 450 million euros. The amount will be 1,250 euros per lorry, 900 per bus, 500 per van and 300 for light vehicles such as taxis, minicabs and ambulances.

Repayment terms for certain loans are to be extended, and a new line of 12-month credit set up for the sector. The Ministry of Transport has also promised to draw up plans before 31 July for the principles of the Food Chain Law to be applied to the road haulage sector.

Negotiations

The meeting was led by deputy prime minister Nadia Calviño, with the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, and Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero. Their decisions may calm things down, but have not put an end to the protest action. The Platform for the Defence of the Road Transport Sector, which started the strike on 14 March, was not invited to the meeting, nor to others held this week with different branches of the CNTC, who the government considers the legitimate representative of the sector. “They account for 90 per cent of the companies. If self-employed people who are contracted by these companies are individually stopping work, that is not a strike; it is another matter,” say government sources.

On Thursday morning Manuel Hernández of the Platform for the Defence of the Road Transport Sector had warned that the protests will not be called off until they are able to sit down with the government for talks, even though the CNTC has been trying to negotiate what they are demanding. And on Friday morning he said the agreement amounts to nothing more than “crumbs” and that the fuel price should be reduced by over 60 céntimos a litre. “We can’t be bought by cash or subsidies, we want the problem sorted out,” he said.

There is strong division in the sector now, but Hernández insists that the strikes will continue today, Friday, with action in different cities including a protest outside the Ministry of Transport in Madrid.