Global trucker strikes stall commerce

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MADRID, Spain — Spanish truck drivers blocked the border with France to all goods’ traffic on Monday, as fuel price protests in Spain, France and Portugal, raised fears of food and fuel shortages, according to Reuters.

Spanish and Portuguese drivers began indefinite strikes, and lines of trucks up to eight km long, formed on the French side of the border after Spanish pickets smashed the windscreens of drivers with foreign goods, who tried to enter Spain. French and Spanish truckers also staged ‘go-slow’ protests, causing tailbacks of 30 km in Bordeaux, France, and 20 km or more around Madrid and Barcelona. The drivers were all demanding action to offset the effect of high oil prices, now at record highs of over $139 per barrel.

Spaniards fearing fuel shortages, queued to fill their tanks, and 40 percent of gas stations ran out of supplies in Spain’s hardest hit region, Catalonia. Long lines formed at Spanish and Portuguese supermarkets after truckers said they could run out of fresh food in days.

“No one is earning enough money to eat any more: not the truckers, not the fishermen, nobody, and someone has to find a solution,” said Jaime Diaz, president of Spain’s National Road Transport Confederation.

Few places in Europe are suffering more than Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, where truckers and fishermen have been hit by soaring fuel costs as recession looms. Small Spanish truck operators are worst hit, while large haulers have kept working. Strike leaders have dismissed government proposals and want price guarantees to stop large firms from undercutting them.

Demonstrations and strikes across Asia have already forced fast-growing countries such as India, Malaysia and Indonesia to raise fuel subsidies to ease the pain of high prices.

Police used water cannon and batons in Kashmir on Monday to disperse hundreds of government workers protesting over fuel price rises, while a general strike shut down the northeastern state of Assam. Surging prices have pushed inflation to record highs in Asia and the 15-member euro zone, forcing central banks to threaten to raise interest rates.

South Korean truckers also voted on Monday to strike over high oil prices, piling more pressure on the export-dependent country’s new president whose policies have sparked mass street protests, according to another Reuters story in the Toronto Star.

The leader of the union representing about 13,000 truckers and transport workers, said that a plan for government relief, may not be enough, and his members could strike later this week. “The government measures are meaningless if they can’t solve the loss we are suffering,” said Kim Dal-shi.

The union said more the 90% of voters elected to strike, but added the date of the stoppage had not been decided.

“Further details will be announced on Thursday, which is also the last day of the negotiation period. It’s up to the government to decide what happens after that,” said Park Sang Hyun, one of the leading members of the union.

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