Fuel strikes raise fears of European shutdown
Tens of thousands in countries around the world are taking strike action over the cost of fuel. Many fear ongoing, co-ordinated protests will cause major disruptions during Europe's holiday season.
PARIS: Concerns are growing over a summer of co-ordinatedEuropean fuel protests after tens of thousands of Spanish truckdrivers blocked roads and the French border, sparking similaraction in Portugal and France, while unions across Europe preparedfresh action over the rising price of petrol and diesel.
Spanish drivers began an indefinite strike on Monday, demandinggovernment help to offset the effect of record oil prices. Truckdrivers blocked motorways at the border with France and caused20-kilometre jams around Madrid and Barcelona. Long queues formedat Spanish and Portuguese supermarkets after truck drivers saidshops could run out of fresh food in days. Even before the strikebegan, thousands of people formed long lines outside petrolstations and supermarkets.
Some main routes to France were blocked, with reports of truckscrossing picket lines having their windscreens smashed.
French truck drivers joined the protest to seal off their sideof the border to all but private cars, while hundreds of truckdrivers and even farmers on tractors staged protests aroundBordeaux, Lille and Toulouse.
In Portugal, drivers launched an open-ended strike. One groupthreatened to block main roads running south to the Algarve toprevent goods reaching the tourist region.
Jerome Cordier of UNOSTRA, the French union of small and mediumhaulage companies, said the protests marked a new phase ofco-ordinated protests, a development that could cause widespreaddisruption during the holiday season. In Italy, truckers arepreparing for an all-out strike between June 30 and July 4.
On Monday, French fishermen from Mediterranean ports ended athree-week strike ahead of a meeting of European fisheriesministers, but their counterparts in Spain maintained the"indefinite" stoppage they began on May 30.
Saudi Arabia said it would call a summit of oil producers andconsumers to try to stem the surge in the price of oil, amid fearsthe world economy could suffer if fuel costs continue to rise. Itsaid it would work with OPEC to guarantee supplies.
Truckers in South Korea voted on Monday to strike over high oilprices, rather than use blockades.
In Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi saidgovernment ministers would take a 10 per cent cut in allowances,and said the administration would announce more measures to easethe burden of rising fuel prices on consumers.