British holidaymakers warned Portugal’s looming strike ‘threatens huge travel disruption’
British holidaymakers are being warned of the dire consequences of Portugal’s looming truckers’ strike, days before it has even started.
Just as local Portuguese started a ‘rush to the pumps’ to panic buy as early as last Thursday, the British media has begun fanning the flames of fear by picking up on an official announcement posted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
While the FCO warns of possible “disruption to travel and other non-essential services”, the Sun and the Express have embellished the message – with the former predicting the strike “could mean flights are cancelled or diverted”.
Indeed it was the Sun that said the strike “threatens huge travel disruption”.
But this is actually the polar opposite of the message from the Portuguese government.
Authorities have repeatedly stressed that airports will be receiving 100% of their fuel quota ‘come-what-may’ (click here), as will other ‘critical infrastructure and services’.
For now (Saturday lunchtime) the situation is that syndicates are meeting throughout the day to decide whether or not to continue their head-on course with employers union ANTRAM (see update below).
Government ministers meantime have convened in Belém to finalise the way forwards if midnight on Sunday sees the worst case scenario.
Addressing the nation at lunchtime, prime minister António Costa said the government is “trying to bring the two sides together” and avoid the strike going forwards at all.
But if it does go forwards, he stresses the rights of the Portuguese people – to freedom to lead their everyday lives – will not be compromised by the truckers’ syndicates’ ‘right to strike’.
The situation of “Energetic Crisis” outlined by the government last week will kick-in the minute the strike begins, with various rules attached to it – particularly limiting drivers to 15 litres of fuel per visit to the pumps.
The ‘network’ of fuel stations remaining open has been increased to 375, with some stocked for the exclusive use of ‘priority services’, like ambulances, firefighters, passenger transport services and others within the 100% priority bracket.
With a ‘situation of alert’ now in place, all eyes are on what comes out of the various truckers’ syndicate meetings ongoing today.
Meantime, André Almeida, the spokesman for ANTRAM has given the employers’ side of the story: very different to that outlined by truckers’ leaders.
He has told Expresso that while the people in charge remain at the helm, he can’t see any chance of a breakthrough.
“There are drivers of dangerous materials (the principal syndicate behind the looming strike) that earn €1,169 per month and others that earn over €2,000… They earn more than university professors or doctors at the start of their careers”.
Almeida claims drivers are being ‘manipulated’ by syndicate leaders, to the point of ‘the crime of fraud’. And he predicts that once authorities move in to reduce the effects of the strike – ie when the military or police start driving delivery trucks – there will be a “high possibility of scenes of violence”.
For the background to this labour dispute (click here).
After a whole day of meetings yesterday, truckers have decided to continue with the strike – due to begin at midnight tonight.
ANTRAM is reported to be pushing the government to declare a civil requisition – the mechanism designed to come into effect “in particularly serious circumstances” to “ensure the regular functioning of services essential to the public interest and sectors vital to the national economy”.
The government’s position however is that a civil requisition should only be actioned if truck drivers refuse to comply with stipulated ‘minimum services’ (click here).