Portugal faces fuel rationing as tanker drivers strike

Better pay and workers' rights are at the heart of the disagreement between the drivers' union and haulage bosses.

    Posters reading 'Energy crisis. Maximum limit 25 litres per filling' are seen as Portugal enacts fuel rationing during a tanker-drivers' strike [Rafael Marchante/Reuters]
    Posters reading 'Energy crisis. Maximum limit 25 litres per filling' are seen as Portugal enacts fuel rationing during a tanker-drivers' strike [Rafael Marchante/Reuters]

    Portuguese motorists are facing fuel rations across Portugal after fuel-tanker drivers began an open-ended strike on Monday.

    The workers have promised to prevent the action from paralysing the country at the height of the tourist season, while the Socialist government on Friday declared an "energy crisis", allowing it to ensure full supplies to ports, hospitals, airports and other priority users.

    "It's absolutely essential that everyone does their part, that those on strike exercise their right and that the minimum services enacted are respected," Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Sunday. "Common sense must prevail."

    The government stands ready to launch special measures to ensure steady supplies, he said.

    A strike in April was Portugal's largest outbreak of industrial unrest in years. Tanker drivers stopped work for the second time this year after talks with employers over better pay and workers' rights failed.

    Fuel rationing for the public restricts drivers to a maximum of 15 litres of petrol or diesel per filling at specially-designated stations covered by the government-decreed minimum services scheme. Motorists can buy 25 litres at all other stations.

    Some stations were out of fuel on Monday morning, but there were some lines building up.

    The National Hazardous Materials Drivers' Union (SNMMP), which called the strike, said its members would comply with the minimum services, but there are concerns they may fail.

    The fuel-tanker drivers said the strike will carry on until the employers' association, ANTRAM, makes a "reasonable proposal".

    "Until then we will strike for a day, a week, a month, as long as it takes," said SNMMP Vice President Pedro Pardal Henriques. The Independent Freight Drivers' Union (SIMM) will also take part in the strike.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies