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Truckers' strike in Spain as soaring energy costs begin to bite

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By Jaime Velazquez
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A long line of trucks driving slowly are reflected in a wing mirror of a car during a truckers strike in Torrejon de Ardoz, just outside of Madrid, Friday March 18, 2022
A long line of trucks driving slowly are reflected in a wing mirror of a car during a truckers strike in Torrejon de Ardoz, just outside of Madrid, Friday March 18, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

A truck drivers' strike in Spain is continuing amid anger at high fuel costs.

It started a week ago as a small demonstration from a minor transport association but has snowballed into a bigger protest.

"We have stopped working because we cannot keep losing money," said Manuel Hernandez, president of the Platform for the Defence of the Transport Sector. "But we’ve reached a point where you can already see there are supply shortages; factories and big companies are being forced to close because they have run out of supplies. Now we can see the effects of this strike."

The protest has channelled the growing social discontent in Spain as it suffers the consequences of inflation that is linked to soaring energy prices.

The strike in the transport sector has disrupted the supply chain and, in supermarkets, some fresh products are becoming scarce.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has further pushed up costs for oil and natural gas in Europe, driving record inflation and making it more expensive for truckers to fuel their vehicles or keep up with other costs.

With Europe dependent on Russian oil and natural gas, the war worsened an energy supply crunch that has driven up costs for households and businesses for months.

Spain's inflation currently stands at 7.6%.

Jesús Anchuelo is a cereal farmer. Farmers and livestock owners are suffering the consequences of the strike, but they share some of their problems.

"This is a problem that is now affecting all society and sectors, but for us farmers and livestock owners it's something we’ve been suffering for months," said Anchuelo, secretary-general of the Small Farmers Union.

"It has worsened even more with the war in Ukraine. Some farmers can no longer survive, especially livestock owners. Fodder prices have skyrocketed, the price of the energy they need for their business has soared, fuel prices have also gone up… everything they need to produce has become more expensive."

The Spanish government says it plans to introduce measures against high energy and fuel prices later this month, something that has been done by other governments across Europe as energy prices fuel rising consumer prices.

The unrest comes as the prime ministers of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece met last Friday to call for an urgent European Union-wide response to the energy crisis to come out of next week’s European Council meeting in Brussels.

Spain's government said it wants to hold off taking more action on energy prices until seeing what Europe can agree to do.