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  • What's Behind Portugal's Fuel-Tanker Strike?

What's Behind Portugal's Fuel-Tanker Strike?

Sep 23 2019

Following a five-day-old strike designed to increase salaries and improve working conditions, Portuguese fuel tanker drivers have returned to work. The drivers have agreed to enter negotiations with employers and take part in brokered talks, a move that the government hopes will end the fuel shortages that hit the country in the height of the summer tourist season.

Union committed to defending drivers

The industrial action has an immediate effect on the nation's fuel supply, with reports that around 25% of all filling stations in Portugal were either running low or completely out of fuel by the fifth day of the strike. Portuguese motorists were limited to purchasing just 15 litres of petrol per transaction and the government was forced to declare a temporary energy crisis.

“The union understands that the conditions are now in place for all parties to sit down at the negotiating table,” reads a statement released by the National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers (SNMMP).

Latest strike signals an industry trend

To ensure the country had access to minimum supplies, as well as to avoid chaos at ports, hospitals, airports and other priority locations, the Portuguese government introduced ordered drivers back to work after five days of striking. The mandate meant that drivers who didn't cooperate could face criminal charges and up to two years in prison.

While employees were forced to get back behind the wheel, SNMMP President Francisco Sao Bento warns that another strike could be planned for later in the year if conditions are not met. The strike was the second of the year, with industrial action also taken in April, a move that saw 40% of petrol stations in Portugal run out of fuel.

Anacleto Rodrigues, a spokesperson for the Independent Freight Drivers’ Union (SIMM) says fuel tanker drivers are forced to work in dangerous conditions and often subject to shifts of up to 15 hours. Low base salaries of just 600 euros, coupled with the fact that overtime payments aren't factored in as social security contributions, are just two of the issues SNMMP and SIMM are fighting to change.  

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