Negotiation against the clock: government and hauliers seek agreement after ten days of strike

Organisation calling the strike still not part of talks

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Transporters demonstrating this Thursday in Logroño.

MADRIDNeither the announcement of €500m to subsidise diesel nor the promise to provide more details this Friday after the European Council meets have helped the Spanish government subdue hauliers, who have been on indefinite strike for ten days. On the contrary, the industrial action promoted by a minority association, the Platform in Defence of Road Freight Transport, has only gain sympathizers and has caused closures or alterations to a number of companies. "There has been political inaction," Spain's main business association, CEOE, wrote in a statement yesterday.

The escalation of tension has forced the Spanish government to move ahead of schedule and meet the freight department of the National Road Transport Committee (CNTC), the main association in the sector, this Friday. Although he CNTC does not support the strike, some of its members have joined. This is the case of Fenadismer, which has warned that it will not leave the table until the measures are rolled out.

The executive will seek to specify the details of the aid package announced so far and, although it has opened the door to anticipate some more measures, it reiterates that the important package will arrive on the 29th of March, when a shock plan to address the economic impact of the war in Ukraine will be approved. Hauliers are demanding clear specifications as to which vehicles the bonus could be extended to, for how long and, above all, what the exact amount the government will put towards the cost of fuel per litre, which this month has risen to all-time highs. In addition, they also want to specify who could benefit from a possible modification of the Tax Agency refund on diesel for professional drivers (about 270,000 trucks in Spain use it) and whether the executive is really willing to put a cap on the price of fuel.

However, doubts remain as to whether the measures will put an end to the strike. The Platform in Defence of Transport, which is not represented by the CNTC and therefore the executive does not consider an "interlocutor", has warned that haulier protests will continue even if there is an agreement today in Madrid, since they have been excluded. "I do not understand why the government does not sit with us at the ministry," the president of the organization, Manuel Hernandez, told El Món a RAC1. Sources close to the negotiation say Sánchez's executive trusts that the CNTC will convince the Platform.

"I know that those who are demonstrating are the most vulnerable people in the transport chain," said Minister of Labour Yolanda Diaz, on Thursday, thus moving away from the tone used earlier in the week, when the Spanish government associated the strike "to an extremist" and "minority" group. Díaz has admitted that the crisis is causing a "generalised impoverishment of society" and that "it is necessary to recover" the measures that "were deployed" in the previous crisis. In fact, for days now, regional governments and city councils, but also unions, business organisations and political parties in the Spanish parliament have been demanding that the Spanish government give a response to this crisis at same level as the covid crisis.