Spanish truckers to continue strike after rejecting new government aid package

MADRID, March 25 (Reuters) – Truck drivers said on Friday they would continue a 12-day strike “indefinitely” after a meeting with Spain’s transport minister led to their rejection of a support plan for billion euros ($1.10 billion) aimed at defusing the fuel price walkout that has caused sporadic shortages of goods.

Minister Raquel Sanchez announced the measures, which include a rebate of 0.20 euros per liter of fuel and a bonus of 1,200 euros, after overnight talks with transport associations.

But within hours the Platform for Transport Defence, the unofficial group of truckers who launched the strike on March 14 and who were excluded from talks with the government, rejected the proposal and began to block the central avenue of La Castellana in Madrid. Read more

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“Unfortunately we will continue the strike,” Manuel Hernandez, who was leading the protest, told reporters after meeting Sanchez on Friday night.

He said the strike would continue “indefinitely” if government aid was not immediately implemented.

“We don’t have money to work because we don’t cover our expenses,” he said.

TVE reported that, according to Hernandez, the Minister of Transport told him that the help requested by the truckers will be provided through a “bill” in the coming months and that until then she cannot not approve transitional measures to ensure payment above cost.

Minister Sanchez had agreed to meet with the leaders of the strike, whom she initially dismissed as unrepresentative of all truckers and linked to the far right.

“I’ve never had a problem meeting them, but what we have to celebrate today is that agreement…and that’s what I’m going to try to explain to them this afternoon,” he said. she told public broadcaster TVE.

Sanchez said all of the truckers’ demands were included in the deal, so there was no reason to continue the strike.

Earlier on Friday, many protesters wore high-visibility jackets reminiscent of the yellow vest protests in France. Protesters also blocked Barcelona’s coastal ring road and burned tires at a border crossing with Portugal.

The discount on fuel prices, a quarter of which will be paid by oil companies, will also apply to other transport companies, Sanchez said. Drivers of buses, light trucks, ambulances and taxis will also receive bonuses, although lower.

As part of the package, the government will approve an unspecified new line of state-guaranteed credit lines with a 12-month freeze on loan repayments, or so-called grace periods where businesses are simply required to pay interest and not the principal on a loan.

To help businesses and households cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spanish government has approved up to €140 billion ($154.1 billion) in ICO credit lines in 2020.

On those existing lines, it will generally extend deadlines from eight to 10 years and automatically extend grace periods by six months, the Department of Transport announced on Friday.

($1 = 0.9083 euros)

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Additional reporting by Marco Trujillo, Nathan Allen, Belén Carreño, Jesús Aguado, Emma Pinedo, Christina Thykjaer and Jessica Jones; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Raissa Kasolowsky and Aurora Ellis

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Edward K. Thompson