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Cablegate: Spain Truckers' Strikes Winding Down

VZCZCXRO8686
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHMD #0672/01 1651212
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131212Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4946
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3998
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 5358
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0631
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0385
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1297
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1418
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 6095

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000672

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON SP EPET ENRG PREL
SUBJECT: SPAIN TRUCKERS' STRIKES WINDING DOWN


1. (U) Summary. A strike by truckers that began on June 9
enters its fifth day amidst a standoff between the Ministry
of Public Works and the two main unions behind the strike
(Confedetrans and Fenadismer), which represent about 20
percent of truckers. The strike led to diesel and food
shortages as well as sporadic outbreaks of violence but now
shows signs of winding down. The two holdout unions, which
primarily represent independent drivers and small companies,
have pushed for the statutory establishment of a minimum
haulage fee to ensure that truckers are able to turn a profit
despite high fuel prices. The Ministry of Public Works has
refused to comply with this demand, and has instead put forth
an alternative relief package which it signed June 11 with
the remaining trucking associations (representing 80% of all
truckers, most of whom had not joined the strike). President
Zapatero has made clear that the government's position will
not change and that there will be a zero tolerance policy
against acts of aggression by strikers. As such, the
Ministry of Interior deployed 25,000 police and National
Guard members June 12 to escort non-striking truckers and
ensure that supplies reach their destinations. Since then,
the roads have been clear, and we expect shortages to
gradually end. End Summary.

2. (U) A strike of over 50,000 truckers began June 9 to
protest the effects of high fuel prices and to demand among
other things that the government set in law minimum hauling
rates to guarantee truckers the ability to turn a reasonable
profit. Over the past 12 months, fuel prices have risen from
.95 euros a liter to 1.30 euros a liter, an increase which
press articles estimate has forced truck drivers to assume
additional operating costs of up to 16,000 euros per year.
This increase has especially affected independent and smaller
trucking companies which in some cases have operated at a
loss. The truckers' strike, which prompted precautionary
buying at grocery stores and gas stations, has led to
shortages in food and fuel supplies. These shortages have
been compounded by a separate strike waged by Spain's
fishermen for similar reasons. Furthermore, the strike has
resulted in tensions between strikers and non-strikers,
culminating in sporadic acts of violence and civil
disobedience leading to over 100 arrests.

3. (U) In a move to end the strike, the Ministry of Public
Works put forth on June 11 a draft accord of 54 "principles"
which include tax breaks and other relief measures. Because
the accord stops short of guaranteeing minimum haulage fees,
the two unions that initiated the strike (Confedetrans and
Fenadismer) refused to sign off on it. The Ministry of
Public Works instead signed the accord June 11 with the
remaining truckers unions which represent 80 percent of all
truckers, most of whom had not joined the strike. Minister
of Public Works Magdalena Alvarez as well as President
Zapatero announced June 12 that the Spanish government would
stand firm on its decision. The GOS deployed 25,000 civil
and national guards to protect non-striking truckers and
ensure that supplies reach their destinations unhindered.

4. (U) Meanwhile negative sentiment against strikers has
grown especially amidst reports of violence in which strikers
attacked and set fire to non-striking trucks. Shortages of
food supplies and medicine have also increased discomfort,
and news that the strikes have adversely affected Spanish
businesses is also not playing well in the public eye.
Automobile companies have especially been hit hard by the
strike, and the lack of part deliveries has led these
companies to seek to temporarily lay off thousands of
workers. Estimates of the economic impact of the strike per
day reach 500 million euros.

Comment:

5. (SBU) The remaining truck strike holdouts are mainly
independent drivers or employees of small haulage companies
that are having trouble competing with the larger transport
groups. The two unions who represent these workers are
standing firm to their demands, but so is the government.
Given the firm stance of the government and growing negative
sentiment against the strikes, it is doubtful that these
holdouts will continue for long. This strike is one of three
major strikes that have occurred in the past weeks related to
higher fuel prices. The other strikes include the
recently-ended 2-week fishermen's strike and a June 13
nationwide taxi strike. These strikes not only underline the
effects of higher fuel prices in Spain, they highlight the

MADRID 00000672 002 OF 002


difficulty that independent workers or smaller businesses
face in surviving in the current marketplace.


AGUIRRE

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