Hauliers’ strike paralyzes car factories, farms in Spain

June 12th, 2008 - 8:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid/Lisbon, June 12 (DPA) A hauliers’ strike against the high cost of fuel was paralyzing the Spanish economy Thursday, with car factories halting production, farmers throwing away milk supplies and wholesale markets running out of foodstuffs. A Ford plant near Valencia, Renault plants in Valladolid and near Palencia and a Peugeot Citroen plant in Vigo halted the production of thousands of cars in stoppages affecting thousands of workers.

A plant by Spanish carmaker Seat in Martorell was running at 40 percent of its capacity, while a Bridgestone tyre plant employing 800 people came to a standstill in Basauri.

The car industry had announced that a lack of parts threatened to disrupt its entire daily production of 13,000 vehicles by Thursday.

Fruit and vegetables was rotting at southern production sites, while milk producers losing a total of up to 6 million euros ($9 million) daily were throwing away a part of their production.

Dairy and other livestock farmers unable to feed their animals or to take them to slaughterhouses estimated their total losses at 45 million euros so far.

Wholesale markets were running out of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and poultry, the prices of which were going up in Madrid and elsewhere.

The government was trying to alleviate the situation by providing police escort to transport lorries to protect them from pickets.

Hauliers’ associations representing less than 20 percent of the sector’s workforce are continuing their strike for the fourth day after refusing to join an agreement between the government and other associations on 54 measures to alleviate the impact of fuel prices.

The strikers want a minimum price level for their services, which the government rejects as violating European Union legislation.

Hauliers meanwhile ended their strike in neighbouring Portugal after reaching a preliminary agreement with the government.

The government had shown “a clear and unequivocal will to solve the problem” of fuel prices in Wednesday’s negotiations, hauliers’ representative Antonio Loios said. The planned measures included postponed VAT payments and lower road tolls.

Pickets were being demobilized after the three-day strike which had led to shortages at supermarkets. Hundreds of petrol stations had run out of stocks, and Lisbon airport prohibited most planes from refuelling Wednesday.

Traffic was returning to normal also in Spain after the interior ministry deployed 25,000 police to maintain order.

Traffic to France was moving normally after blockades were lifted at the border posts of Irun and La Jonquera. Hundreds of trucks, however, remained on the Portuguese border for fear of being stopped by protesters in Spain or France.

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