Under the threat of an indefinite strike, scheduled for Monday, fuel carriers, the Portuguese government and many motorists have taken this week their precautions to deal with possible shortages in full summer vacation.
Scared by a previous strike at Easter, the Socialist executive declared on Wednesday night a "situation of energy crisis" if the strike actually started on August 12, failing agreement between employers and truckers.
It ruled that carriers should provide a minimum service of at least 50% of fuel deliveries to all consumers. Public transport companies and suppliers of food, water, energy or telecommunications operators will have to be 75% supplied.
Emergency services, airports and police forces will have to be 100%, as well as a network of 386 service stations defined by the government, including about 50 dedicated to priority vehicles only.
The authorities have also decided to train some 500 soldiers and gendarmes who will be able to drive tanker trucks if the minimum service is not respected.
Many motorists rush to the pumps to refuel before their departure or return from vacation, for a week marked by a holiday, Thursday, August 15.
"The sale of fuel during the last week has increased by 30% and some gas stations are buying four times more than usual," said Minister of the Environment and Energy Transition, Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes.
Shortly before Easter weekend in Portugal, the government and motorists were taken aback by a first four-day fuel carrier strike and caused significant shortages.
- "Revolt and misunderstanding" -
The truck drivers, led by a union founded in November 2018 and independent of the major confederations, had then suspended their movement after obtaining the salary increases they demanded.
Having obtained a salary of at least 1,400 euros, including bonuses, from January 2020, they now demand that their employers pledge to give them new increases in 2021 and 2022.
Two months away from the upcoming parliamentary elections, the socialist government tried unsuccessfully to settle the social conflict between the carriers and the two unions concerned, without however hiding its dissatisfaction with the threat of a strike.
"There is a clear feeling of national revolt and misunderstanding at a strike scheduled in the middle of August when wage increases have already been granted for 2020," said Prime Minister Antonio Costa last week.
The unions, including those who will not participate in the strike, have nevertheless denounced the form of the minimum service they consider excessive.
"The right to strike exists only on paper," protested the spokesperson of these drivers, Pedro Pardal Henriques, dark suit and rectangular glasses on the nose.
Vice-president of the "National Union of Drivers of Dangerous Goods", this 42-year-old lawyer had no known connection with the road transport sector until his appearance during the strike last April.
He surprised public opinion by arriving at the pickets at the wheel of an imposing Maserati. Since then, he no longer uses his Maserati. "I was blocked when I was traveling with my children," he said in an interview with the weekly Expresso.
© 2019 AFP