Truckers’ strike: government prepares ‘alternative network’ to ensure fuel and gas deliveries

Under threat of another crippling truckers’ strike affecting fuel and gas deliveries from August 12, the government is preparing an ‘alternative network’ to ensure minimum services.

Special emphasis is being put on the Algarve, where populations – and consequently demand – ‘explodes’ during the summer months.

Said energy secretary João Galamba yesterday (Wednesday): “There are gas supply outlets in the Algarve that are priorities, and they are included in the emergency network.

“Even in a strike scenario with breakdown of minimum services, this supply – and consumption in the region – are guaranteed”.

To help keep the country running through the open-ended strike, national energy entity ENSE will be creating a ‘task force’ to ‘articulate with security forces’ so that the alternative network can (be allowed to) function, he added.

In addition, “various members of the government, in the areas of Energy, Transports and Internal Administration, will be accompanying the situation, as they did during the last strike”.

Efforts behind the scenes will meantime be being made to see if there can be a break in the deadlock between drivers’ syndicates and employers association ANTRAM (click here).

As media reports explain, this new strike is simply the revival of a protest that had been scheduled for last May, following industrial action for three days before Easter that threatened to bring the country to a complete standstill (click here).

ANTRAM’s assurances of meaningful negotiations saw SNMMP – the syndicate representing drivers of dangerous materials – ‘relent’ and agree to talks.

They say these have since collapsed, with ANTRAM showing ‘bad faith’. And despite the fact that the original upset centred on ‘drivers of dangerous materials’, other drivers have now joined the cause.

Demands centre on ‘greater recognition’ (particularly for the job of delivering dangerous materials), better working conditions (to help promote road safety) and the restructuring of salaries – which drivers claim are organised to help employers’ evade taxes.

The two syndicates involved – SNMMP and SIMM (the independent syndicate of delivery drivers) – are increasingly attracting members who feel unrepresented by the more traditional union FECTRANS, which last year signed a ‘collective working contract’ with ANTRAM.

This dispute – and the way it managed so rapidly to plunge the country into chaos – has intrigued the media for the fact that it was spearheaded by a lawyer who drives a Maserati and had no previous history with the truck driving sector.

Seemingly overnight, Pedro Pardal Henriques became the principal name in this struggle. He is now reportedly creating a new syndicate, for HGV drivers employed by the muncipality of Lisbon.

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