Spain agrees to $551m transport aid package, but truckers’ strike continues

MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government agreed to provide 500 million euros ($551.35 million) in direct aid to the transport sector on Monday, hoping to end the strike of some truckers due to of soaring fuel prices, but organizers said the strike would continue.

“We are going to put in place a subsidy on the price of professional diesel so that this measure has a real and effective impact,” said Transport Minister Raquel Sanchez after a meeting with the National Road Transport Committee.

She said the measure was in line with similar measures taken in France, Portugal and Italy and would come into force on April 1. The government will not reduce VAT – value added tax – on fuel.

Although the strike only involved a minority of drivers, it caused huge traffic jams across Spain, leading some factories to stop production because they could not guarantee deliveries would be received on time.

The strike organizer, an association of lorry drivers and small truck owners known as the Transport Defense Platform, was not present at the meeting and said the government’s announcement was insufficient.

Faced with record diesel prices, drivers went on strike last Monday to demand lower taxes and lighter regulations, with some protests turning violent.

“Until we negotiate the real problems faced by small truck drivers, there will be no suspension (of the strike),” Platform president Manuel Hernandez told Reuters, adding that their main demand is to prevent drivers from incurring losses when transport costs exceed revenues.

Hernandez said the government’s proposals are “band-aids” that don’t address what he sees as a deeper wound.

Asked about the continuation of the strike on Tuesday, Spanish Finance Minister Nadia Calvino said at a press briefing: “These are positive measures for truckers and platforms that would not support (the measures) clearly show that ‘they do not defend the interests of this sector’. .

The government’s plan follows a European Commission consultation on a draft proposal for a temporary crisis framework for state aid to support the EU economy amid soaring global inflation , exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Such support could be provided in any form, including guarantees, subsidized loans and limited grants to partially compensate companies, especially large energy consumers, for increases in energy prices, the EU said earlier in March.

($1 = 0.9069 euros)

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Jesús Aguado, Belén Carreño and Joan Faus; Writing by Nathan Allen and Joan Faus; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Jonathan Oatis)

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