The Portuguese fuel strike, which made some international headlines, ended after one week. In spite of some fears of disruption, everyday life was not significantly affected. There are still ongoing negotiations between the lorry drivers union and their bosses’ counterpart, but it is not credible that a new stand-off of these proportions will arise. The union called for a new strike, but only to overtime.
It is possible to make some conclusions about the event.
The main reason for the apparent toughness shown by the union is the upcoming Portuguese general elections, in October. In a leaked video of a union meeting, the head representative of the drivers was seen telling the crowd precisely what everybody suspected. The government should be more soft, sensitive to pressure, at this pre-vote stage.
Choosing mid-August was also a way to disrupt the vacations period, both for Portuguese people and foreign tourists. Disrupting tourism, presently the main “engine” of the Portuguese economy, was an attempt of the union to hurt the government where it would hurt the most.
Swift response by the government
The government’s response was probably more though than everyone was expecting. One can speculate that the authorities were taking measures since the little “warning” of last April. The government ordered a “requisição civil” (“civil request”) from day 1 of the strike, legally forcing the union to work to meet the “serviços mínimos” (minimal services) also legally determined. In some cases, police officers were seen driving the fuel lorries instead of the strikers.
There were just seldom disruption in the fuel supply throughout the country; Algarve, due to its high demand in August, suffered a little more than the rest of the country. Even so, the government and the transport companies’ association managed even to bring at least one fuel truck from Spain to Monte Gordo, in Eastern Algarve.
People did not side with the lorry drivers
A few commentators said the government went too far. Some even spoke of a left-wing Thatcherism. But, all in all, most people in the country did not side with the disruption the union was promising. Ironically, the Portuguese Yellow Vest movement, which proclaimed its support to the drivers union, was officially disbanded during the strike, due to total de-mobilization of its members. And the government, likely, took a good step into assuring re-election. Totally unlike France.
The Portuguese people care about the state of peace they’re living. No one wants turbulence threatening the economic recovery they’ve been achieving in the present decade. No wonder it is considered one of the safest and most stable countries in the world.