“Given that all conditions are in place to negotiate with ANTRAM [employers’ association] and the government, it was decided that the strike would be called off,” Pedro Pardal Henriques, vice president of National Hazardous Materials Drivers’ Union (SNMMP) said.
The second nationwide strike in 2019 began on Aug. 12 and was organized by the SNMMP and later joined by the Independent Freight Drivers’ Union (SIMM) to demand higher wages and better working conditions.
Union representatives are asking for the base monthly salary to increase from €630 (US$706) to €900 (US$1009) by 2022. Yet employers say that with subsidies, supplements and allowances drivers already get enough money at the moment.
The workers protest occurred during the country’s busiest tourist season, thus making the government enact a legal mechanism on Aug. 12 to order striking fuel-tanker drivers back to work in some parts of the country after fuel supplies ran low amid a self-declared “energy crisis” for the second time since April.
A similar strike by fuel-tanker drivers in April caused low supplies at more than 2,000 fuel stations and prompted panic buying by drivers. Since then repeated attempts to reach an agreement through talks have failed.
Portugal’s economic situation is the result of the International Monetary Fund’s recession-induced measures and austerity policies. 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.
Yet under Costa, 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 the prime minister has not eliminated.