A group of truck drivers in Spain on Friday rejected a government offer to double a support package to help with rising fuel prices, and vowed to continue a 12-day walkout that has led to shortages and pushed firms to scale back production.
The proposed measures, which include a rebate of €0.20 ($0.22) per litre of fuel and a €1,200 bonus, will cost the government about €1 billion, twice as much as a previous package unveiled earlier this week, transport minister Raquel Sanchez told reporters after talks that ran through Thursday night.
The rebate on fuel prices, a quarter of which will be paid by oil companies, will also apply to other transport companies, she added. Bus, light truck, ambulance and taxi drivers will also receive - albeit smaller - bonuses.
'Aware Of The Hardship'
"We have always been aware of the hardship that the transport industry like other sectors face as they are hit by the energy crisis that was intensified by the Russian aggression to Ukraine," she said on Friday at a pre-dawn news conference.
Within hours, the group of truck drivers that launched the walkout on 14 March had rejected the proposal and demonstrators on foot began blocking La Castellana, one of Madrid's main arteries.
'We will not call off the strike,' the group said in a statement on its Facebook account. 'You will not fool us.'
However, three transport associations which joined the strike last week after finding the first government offer insufficient, backed the Friday proposal.
The strike began when a group of drivers and small truck owners began blocking roads and ports in response to rising costs, which have been exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Open To Meet Representatives
The transport minister told Onda Cero radio station that she was open to meet representatives of that group who were not part of the Thursday negotiations.
Taxi drivers also protested in parts of the country and the national fishing fleet temporarily halted operations.
Spain's CEOE business association on Wednesday complained that the government had been slow to act compared with neighbouring France and Portugal.
Retailers have urged consumers not to panic buy and stressed that food supplies are guaranteed, although there are shortages of some goods.