Portugal declared an “energy crisis” on Tuesday after a nation-wide strike by fuel truck drivers continues since Monday. As oil supply dwindles, users and transportation services have experienced shortages.
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Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira told reporters that this measure will allow the government to mobilize military personnel to restore fuel supply to gas stations and essential infrastructures, especially fire stations, ports and international airports. Also, the government has ordered striking workers to get back to work immediately.
The National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers are protesting for better workers’ rights since Monday, yet guaranteed the operation of minimum services. However, the minimum service has not been fulfilled and fuel supplies are running out, according to the Portuguese government.
Lisbon’s international airport has resorted to emergency fuel reserves, as well as the port city of Faro. “At both airports, where fuel supply wasn’t ensured, we have reached critical levels of fuel reserves for aircraft refueling,” the Economy Minister said. Portugal’s government and security forces are sending tanker trucks to the capital to supply it with fuel.
Meanwhile, panicked drivers queued for hours outside gas stations to fill up their tanks. More than 200 gas stations were already shut and many more are expected to face serious threats to their operations as supplies run low. As a precautionary measure, the Portuguese Virtual Operations Support Team have asked users to remember that emergency and security services have priority.
Fuel company Prio, which operates in Portugal, told news agency Lusa, that it expected almost half its stations to run out of gas or diesel by the end of the day. “This could aggravate if the truckers’ union does not advise its members to comply with the order issued by the government to fulfill the minimum services to supply stations,” Prio’s statement added.
In 2011, the Iberian nation was on the verge of an economic collapse, so it went to the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank to ask for approximately US$91 billion. A package of austerity measures was conditioned and immediately applied between 2011 and 2014. However, the medicine ended up being even worse than the ailment, and by 2014 the GDP growth was negative and unemployment reached 15 percent.
Social discontent resulted in a parliamentary triumph of a majority confirmed by a left-wing coalition, led by socialist Antonio Costa. In 2015, they began to reverse the toughest measures: increased public sector salaries and brought back certain rights won by workers such as minimum wage and pensions; but many policies remained.
Currently, the country still has one of the lowest minimum wage in the European Union (518 euros) and continues to face major protests as a result of ongoing lender-induced austerity measures that Costa has not eliminated.