Empty supermarket shelves. / EFE / VIDEO: EUROPA PRESS

Spanish government offers 500-million-euro package to hauliers to halt the strike and safeguard food supplies

The move has been rejected by the minority group which called the protest, and other associations in the sector have now joined the action

EDURNE MARTÍNEZ Madrid

The government in Spain has put a 500 million-euro package on the table in an attempt to resolve the hauliers’ strike, so that the food supply chain can get back to normal. The money would be paid directly to them in the form of rebates, to reduce their fuel costs, said the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, yesterday after a long meeting with the National Road Transport Committee (CNTC). For the moment, the government has ruled out tax reductions, because it considers that the tax rate for professional transport workers is already low enough.

The proposed package will form part of the government’s response plans to the war in Ukraine. The aim is to refund fuel costs every month instead of quarterly, guarantee supplies, ensure the stability of the sector and boost energy efficiency.

More sectors join action

On Friday the committee is due to meet the minister again to finalise the details, but for the organisers of the strike it makes no difference. Sources at the Platform for the Defence of the Road Freight Transport Sector said on Monday that they will not accept this measure to put an end to the strike because it has been agreed with a committee that they do not recognise as representative. The platform is demanding its own meeting with the minister, something which is apparently not on the government agenda.

In fact, on Monday night even more sectors decided to join the protest action. The National Federation of Transport Associations (Fenadismer), which represents more than 50,000 vehicles, and other organisations in the sector, such as Fetransa and Feintra, agreed to take part in the strike from today, Tuesday 22 March.

Panic buying

The attempt to resolve a crisis which began with a strike called by a minority association, which represents less than 10 per cent of workers in the sector, has become a real headache for the government. Pickets in some strategic areas have successfully stopped some industries, such as the dairy sector, producing altogether and fear of shortages have led to panic-buying by consumers, especially items such as vegetable oils, tinned food and milk. Many supermarkets have empty shelves, and some market stalls are closed altogether because they have nothing to sell.