A SERIES of 'low-cost' petrol stations set up across the Comunidad Valenciana could see their days numbered – the regional government has banned fuel-pump complexes with no staff.
These service stations are pre-paid and operate by credit or debit card, and as they do not have employees, they are able to keep the price of petrol much lower than in traditional refuelling areas.
Whilst making petrol and diesel cheaper for drivers, 'low-cost' pumps also act as an incentive for national and multi-national chains to fire all their staff and make their premises self-service, which the Valencian government considers bad news in light of Spain's ongoing unemployment problem.
From New Year's Eve, a law has been in force – which has just come to light this week – forcing all petrol stations to have at least one employee on the premises during the daytime.
Pump attendants are already facing their jobs disappearing as more and more petrol stations are self-service, meaning staff are only needed to man the shop and take payments – in previous years, as well as at least one shopkeeper, service stations would have another employee or even several who put the petrol in the car for their customers.
Self-service stations began to become cheaper in recognition that it was the customer who bore the fire risk when filling up, rather than staff, but led to drivers using unmanned pumps to save money.
Still, however, many petrol station shop staff will automatically come outside and set the pump to fill for the driver, meaning they can go indoors and browse in store – or even stay put in their vehicles if it is cold or raining – while their tank is filling up.
The new regional law also means service station employees, even at low-cost self-service pumps, are obliged to help disabled drivers fill up.
As yet, though, 'daytime' has not been fully defined in terms of hours.
The Spanish Confederation of Service Station Owners (CEEES)'s chairman Javier Bru says this is likely to be taken as being from 06.00hrs or 07.00hrs in the morning to 22.00hrs or 23.00hrs at night, in line with existing staff shifts, meaning nearly the whole of the day is covered except the small hours when most people on the roads will be long-distance drivers.