Sat | Dec 7, 2019

Portugal rations gas as tanker drivers strike over pay

Published:Monday | August 12, 2019 | 11:22 AM
Tanker truck drivers on strike applaud a fellow driver leaving a fuel depot in Aveiras, outside Lisbon, Monday, August12, 2019. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal began rationing gas Monday as a precaution after 2,000 truck drivers began an open-ended strike over pay, a move that comes at the height of the crucial summer tourist season and during the summer harvest.

The government set a limit at gas stations of 25 litre for light vehicles and 100 litres  for trucks until further notice as most tanker truck drivers walked off the job.

Some truckers in other sectors of the economy also joined the walkout.

Anticipating gas and fresh food shortages, the center-left Socialist government, which faces a general election in October, is demanding truckers provide a minimum volume of supplies, including to emergency services and airports.

Authorities hope to minimise disruptions by demanding that truckers maintain 75% of normal gas deliveries for public transport systems and 50% to gas stations.

All perishable goods and at least half of the normal food supplies must also be delivered to stores.

Some trucks delivering gas Monday had a police escort, and police said they were on standby for the possibility of roadblocks erected by strikers. Few queues were reported yet at gas stations after many people filled their tanks over the weekend.

The government warned that if truckers do not comply with the required level of minimum services, it will enact a rarely-used law to force them back to work. At the same time, the government was preparing to use qualified members of the security forces to deliver gas, if necessary.

The walkout was called by the National Hazardous Materials Drivers’ Union, representing about 750 of the country’s 900 tanker drivers, and the Independent Goods Vehicles Drivers’ Union.

The truckers are demanding staggered annual rises over the next three years in their basic pay and benefits.

They want their basic pay to increase from 630 euros a month to 900 euros by 2022.

Employers say they can’t afford the demands by the unionised truckers.

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