Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Portugal, June 2008, truck drivers strike

At the midnight of the 9th of June [2008] initiated in Portugal an illegal truck drivers and owners strike, with the declared objective of obtaining a reduction in the oil prices (as happened last week with the fishermen). From the beginning the truck drivers and truck owners took a distance from ANTRAM (the association of the sector of road transportations) because they didn’t feel represented…
From the first night there were flying pickets in almost every Portuguese road usually used by truck drivers. The people in the pickets blockaded the roads and highways with their own bodies as soon as they saw some truck approaching. This was to reveal itself to be tragic, with one man ending up dead, run over by a truck driver who wasn’t on strike. Some transportations and supermarket companies were openly defying the strike, explicitly ordering their drivers to not stop and sending groups of trucks escorted by police cars, with fear of attacks. But this didn’t turn out as expected.
On the second night of the strike dozens of trucks who belonged to or who were working for specific companies were attacked with stones while travelling, in very different parts of the country (Cantanhede, Figueira da Foz and at least in different parts of three highways). Dozens of winscreens were broken. At various places where non-striking truck drivers were parked several acts of sabotage occurred, such as slashed tires and battery and brake cables cut. At least twelve “non-striking trucks” parked in different parts of the country were attacked with fire and burnt down. A Judiciary Police source says dozens of these trucks were burnt down. The vandalism and sabotage went on the following night. Trucks that hours before were working escorted by riot police vehicles, hours later appeared burnt down, also with cables cut.
In the supermarkets there was almost no food, and lines of shelves were simply empty. Nothing to sell, what a beautiful vision. The gas stations all over Portugal didn’t have any oil or gas. The Lisbon airport had only enough fuel for military and emergency planes. Thousands of cops on the roads, no blockade would be permitted. The journalists asked for the government to be harder with the repression, that the country was in the hands of the truck drivers, and that the state of emergency be declared. The following day some journalists who wanted to do a live coverage of an assembly of workers nearby had some trouble: the camera cables were cut by anonymous hands. Anonymous in the middle of dozens of truck drivers.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, an ad-hoc “representative commission” that was constituted by some truck drivers and owners reached an agreement with the government, and it didn’t involve a reduction in oil prices. The same old story: end of strike, everyone back to work. The truck drivers on many flying pickets didn’t want to end the strike, at least not until the reduction in the oil prices. The deals were good, but for the big truck owners. The truck drivers didn’t feel represented by this ad-hoc commission, as happened also with ANTRAM; but they thought everyone else fell. Representation fucks you in mysterious ways.

In Spain, the truck drivers were also on strike, they made flying pickets across the whole country, and stopped thousands of trucks, including some Portuguese ones.
Some of the trucks whose drivers didn´t stop were attacked with stones, sabotaged or burned. The Spanish truck drivers also asked for the reduction of oil prices.
In Valença, some fishermen and boat owners blockaded a bridge with barricades and burning tires, in solidarity with the truck drivers.
A few days after the beginning of the strike, the riot cops started to attack the flying pickets, removing the trucks and identifying drivers; at least 90 people were arrested and a man was sentenced to 8 months in prison, accused of attacking a cop.
The consequences of the strike were similar to the Portuguese ones, the supermarkets were empty and thousands of trucks had to been escorted by the riot police.
In Almeria 4000 farmers clashed with the police, while they were doing a demo against the escalation of oil prices, al least 20 people got hurt.

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