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Bumper trade for Spanish petrol stations thanks to Portuguese fuel strike
By thinkSPAIN Team Tue, Aug 13, 2019
A LORRY driver strike in Portugal which has left petrol stations in the country running dry has turned out to be a great business boost for some of those in Spain.
HGV drivers who specialise in transporting hazardous merchandise such as gas, chemicals, household fuel and petrol and diesel have downed tools and refused to comply with the 'minimum services' requirement, sparking an energy crisis in Portugal.
Portuguese president António Costa says 'enormous community spirit' means the country is running as close to 'normally' as possible, but huge restrictions have been made on fuel.
Cars have been limited to 15 litres of petrol in 'specially-designated' service stations, and 25 litres in all the rest, meaning nobody can get more than about 70 to 100 kilometres out of their vehicles in one hit.
Over 450 service stations in Portugal have been forced to shut as they have run out of fuel, meaning long-distance travel carries a major risk - that of being unable to put enough petrol in, and not finding a station open to refill when needed.
But Portugal is not very wide and 15 to 25 litres is usually enough to get from west to east - so hundreds of drivers have been heading for Spain to refuel.
Petrol stations in the Galicia provinces of Pontevedra and Ourense, the Castilla y León provinces of Zamora and Salamanca, all of Extremadura - both the region's provinces, Badajoz and Cáceres - and the Andalucía province of Huelva have been witnessing queues around the clock.
As a bonus, petrol and diesel are cheaper in Spain than in Portugal.
Some service stations in these Spanish provinces have had to shut down because they have run out of fuel, but others simply ordered in more supplies.
Portuguese lorry drivers went on strike in April and queues built up at petrol stations over the border, so their owners guessed what would happen and took precautions.
"We already knew what it was going to be like, because last time we nearly ran out of fuel," said the owner of a Repsol station near the town of Moraleja (Cáceres province).
"So we predicted what would happen and ordered larger supplies."
This has not been the case in all service stations in Spain close to the Portuguese border, though: "Since the end of last week, the increase in customers has been spectacular - masses of Portuguese people have come in - in fact, yesterday we ran out of stock and had to shut," said the lady who runs the Outletui service station near Tuy, in Galicia.
Stations in Huelva, Extremadura and Galicia have had considerably more business than those in Salamanca and Zamora, both of which have only noticed a 'slightly larger than normal for any other August' increase in trade.
"There have been a lot of customers, but there usually are in August, so it's not been anything over the top," said the manager of a Repsol station in Ciudad Rodrigo.
In Huelva, however, the nearest Spanish province to the whole of the Algarve, about a quarter of Portugal and most parts of the country south of Lisbon, queues of several kilometres backed up down the streets have been reported.
It is likely the situation will become more and more intense over the next few days or even weeks - hazardous goods transport workers announced yesterday (Monday) that they had 'no intention of' complying with the 'minimum services' requirement, which ranges from 50% to 100% depending upon the type of merchandise, saying this obligation was a way of trying to 'sabotage' their strike.
Some claim there have been drivers who have been threatened with disciplinary action or bribed with extra wages to start work before the 'minimum services' daily time schedule begins, effectively giving up the strike.
But those who have not, or who have ignored the 'bribery' and 'threats', say their industrial action is 'indefinite' and will not stop until they are given the pay rise stated in the collective working conditions agreement drawn up by their unions.
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