Spanish truckers and the government continued negotiating to end a strike over rising fuel prices that has clogged motorways, and even caused deaths.
Truckers have taken to blocking the highways in protest
The ongoing negotiations were interrupted Tuesday, June 10, after a picket-line helper was run over by a truck and killed near Granada.
Earlier, a picketer had been killed in neighboring Portugal, where truckers are staging similar protests.
Diesel prices have surpassed even the most expensive gasoline
Meanwhile, a Spanish truck driver was taken to the hospital with serious burns after his vehicle began burning in San Isidro near Alicante early Wednesday. The man had been sleeping in the cabin. Several other trucks also caught fire. Police were investigating the incident.
The strike began Monday and is the most serious labor unrest facing Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero since he came to power in March 2004.
Truckers reject first offer
The striking haulers are protesting against rising fuel prices, which they say eat up to 60 per cent of their income.
The government and a transport commission reached an agreement on 54 support measures to the sector on Tuesday, but the haulers' associations that had called the strike did not back the agreement, and the strike went into its third day Wednesday.
The truckers want a minimum price for transport services, which the government sees as being incompatible with a free market, and cuts in fuel-related taxes, which depend partly on the European Union rather than the Spanish government.
Blocked traffic, damaged trucks
The striking associations represent only about 20 per cent of the sector. Nevertheless, the strike has caused mayhem on access roads to major Spanish cities. Trucks circulate on these access roads at a slow temperature and block traffic.
About 15 people have been arrested for trying to forcefully stop truck drivers or after incidents with police. A foreign driver was held for aggressive behaviour towards a picket in Irun on the French border.
Markets are running out of some food products
Trucks have been damaged by setting them on fire, puncturing tires or smashing windows. Several pickets were injured after being hit by vehicles.
Food and fuel shortages reported
Wholesale markets, supermarkets and even small shops have begun running out of fresh fruit, vegetables and milk products as pickets have prevented deliveries and citizens fearful of shortages have stocked up on goods.
Fish stocks have been affected also by strikes of fishermen protesting the fuel prices, with about 85 per cent of the Spanish fleet moored.
Gas stations were also running short on fuel in several parts of the country. Police have escorted gas and food deliveries to protect them from picketers.