MADRID, June 9 (Reuters) - Spanish truck drivers began an
indefinite strike over rocketing fuel prices on Monday, smashing
windscreens of vehicles that crossed picket lines.
They were joined by truck drivers in neighbouring Portugal
who also went on strike, while there were also protests across
the border in France over the impact of the surge in oil prices
to record highs of over $139 per barrel.
Spaniards fearing fuel shortages queued to fill up at
petrol stations. Queues also built up outside some hypermarkets
after truckers warned supermarkets would run out of goods within
Long lines of trucks formed at Spanish-French border
crossings and television stations showed pictures of abandoned
lorries with broken windscreens, lights ripped out and tyres
punctured after they tried to defy the strike.
The government reported incidents at crossings in Catalonia
and in the Basque Country as Spanish truckers protested
alongside French drivers also demanding government action to
counter a more than 20 percent rise in fuel prices this year.
Some 15 truckers stopped lorries from travelling to Spain in
the French border town of Perthus but allowed smaller vehicles
and buses to proceed.
Around 200 lorries also deliberately slowed traffic into the
French city of Bordeaux, in a protest to demand that the
government allows truckers to buy tax-free diesel at a
discounted price of 0.98 euros per litre.
The Spanish strikers blockaded distribution centres and
ports in their call for the government to establish a minimum
Spanish truckers and fishermen are caught in a double bind
-- hit by soaring fuel price costs as Spain's economy sinks into
its worst economic downturn in 15 years and demand for their
Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has
offered truckers credit lines and other measures but says they
will have to adapt to fierce competition in Spain's contracting
Strike leaders have dismissed government proposals and want
price guarantees to stop large firms undercutting smaller
"Truckers can't work, we are losing money and someone has to
find a solution," Jaime Diaz, president of Spain's National Road
Transport Confederation industry grouping, said on the Ser radio
Spain's Development Ministry said it had been in talks with
truckers since January and saw chances of reaching a deal this
week to allow them to increase prices in line with fuel costs.
"Maybe its a bit of an optimistic scenario, but we could
reach an agreement by the middle of the week," Development
Ministry transport director Juan Miguel Sanchez told Ser.