Mon Jun 16, 2008
(Reuters) – Protests against surging fuel prices which have triggered fears of political instability and a global economic downturn expanded in Europe and Asia on Monday, and Colombian truckers said they would join the wave of strikes. Here are some details:
— On Monday, French truckers began blocking roads in the latest protest to pressure the government to help them cope with oil prices that have more than doubled in a year.
— The nationwide day of action announced by the main haulage associations included roadblocks and so-called “snail” operations by convoys of slow-moving trucks.
— French fishermen fighting for cheaper fuel have recently blockaded ports, disrupted traffic on land and sea, and blocked the fuel depot of France’s largest oil refinery.
— Spain’s few remaining striking truck drivers called off their week-long fuel protest for now.
— The strike paralysed Spain’s transport network last week, leaving petrol stations without fuel, factories without parts, empty supermarket shelves and sparked travel chaos for millions.
— In Colombia, the world’s No. 3 coffee producer, freight drivers were due to stage a national strike on Monday. Transport Minister Andres Uriel Gallego said officials were taking measures to guarantee food supplies.
* SOUTH KOREA:
— In South Korea, construction workers joined thousands of striking truckers in the latest blow to new President Lee Myung-bak, who said inflationary pressures were creating the biggest global economic crisis in 30 years.
— Yoo Chienyuenyongpong, president of the Land Transport Federation of Thailand, which has 400,000 trucks under its banner, said he would decide whether to resurrect a strike threat after a meeting with finance, transport and energy ministry officials on Thursday.
— Last week, thousands of Thai hauliers went on a half-day strike. Facing sustained protests on the streets of Bangkok and shaky public support, Thailand’s government gives out handouts to everyone from rice farmers to bus operators.
French truckers block roads in fuel protest
Reuters /, Monday June 16 2008
PARIS, French truckers began blocking roads across France on Monday as they continued a protest against high fuel prices and urged the government to help the industry. The nationwide day of action announced by the main haulage associations included roadblocks and so-called “snail” operations by convoys of slow-moving trucks and is expected to disrupt traffic severely, especially on highways. But in a gesture intended to minimise delays for nearly half a million students sitting their baccalaureat examinations on Monday, the protest action was delayed until 9:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) and is expected to end at 4:00 p.m.
“It’s not about punishing transport users, it’s about sending a warning to the government,” said Philippe Fournier, an official of Unostra, an association that mainly represents small haulage firms. “It has to accept its responsibilities.” Traffic was already building up around Paris and on roads leading to major towns including Lyon and Toulouse by mid-morning, the road traffic authority said.
A convoy of private ambulances heading towards the ministry of health delayed traffic in central Paris and a convoy of trucks heading towards the southwestern city of Bordeaux created traffic tailbacks of around 20 km (12 miles). Coming a day before a separate day of action by unions against plans to reform working hours and pension laws, the fuel protests add to a climate of discontent as France prepares to assume the presidency of the European Union next month.
Monday’s operation was the latest in a series of protests by groups ranging from truckers to fishermen aimed at pressuring the government to provide help in coping with the soaring cost of fuel, notably through tax relief. Similar protests by groups particularly vulnerable to rising fuel prices have been held across Europe in recent weeks, lifting the issue of oil prices to the top of the policy agenda.
In addition to fuel costs which have been multiplied by five over the past five years, the FNTR road transport association says highway tolls have gone up 25 percent in the past three years and also complains of rising payroll costs.
It says bankruptcies among transport operators have risen 25 percent in the first three months of the year from a year earlier, with 500 firms going out of business.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie, additional reporting by Jean-Francois Rosnoblet in Marseille, editing by Stephen Weeks)
French Ambulance Drivers, Truckers Protest Rising Fuel Prices
By Helene Fouquet
June 16 (Bloomberg) — Ambulance drivers and truckers are demonstrating today across France, demanding tax breaks from the government to help them face rising fuel prices.
Ambulance drivers, who disrupted traffic on Paris’s left bank, protested in front of the health ministry. Truckers slowed traffic on highways in eastern France and around cities including Bordeaux and Marseille. They are also preventing fuel tankers from leaving the Total SA refining plant in La Mede, near Marseille, Unostra union spokesman Jerome Cordier said over the telephone.
The demonstrations “are not aimed at blocking the country, but to tell the government that we need tax rebates, less fiscal pressure to be able to do our job,” Cordier said.
Truckers across Europe have been demanding state aid to cope with rising oil prices, which reached records earlier this month. Oil in New York reached a record $139.12 on June 6. Prices have almost doubled in the past year. Crude oil for July delivery traded at $134.91, up 5 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 10:09 a.m. London time.
In France, the protestors join taxi drivers and fishermen who have also been demonstrating in the past weeks to demand state help. Some taxi drivers protested today at toll booths and fuel stations in five French regions, including in the Oise, near the castle of Chantilly, and the Vienne region’s city Poitiers.
About 550 ambulances are blocking the health ministry’s entrance, the police said. The drivers say higher fuel prices have increased operating costs by 22 percent, according to a statement posted on their web site.
French fishermen at the Mediterranean and Atlantic ports blocked harbors in demonstrations that have lasted about three weeks.
Separately, workers of France’s public and private sectors are slated to strike tomorrow to “defend the 35-hour work week” ahead of a governmental draft law that will loosen labor rules and enable companies to add working hours.
To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spanish truckers group calls for lorries to converge on Madrid
MADRID (AFP) – A Spanish truck drivers’ association on Sunday called for its members to converge on Madrid overnight in protest at the government’s apparent lack of action over high fuel prices.
The “Platform for the Defence of the Transport Sector”, which says it represents 40,000 to 50,000 truckers across Spain, called in an internet statement for adherents to set off in their trucks from 1700 GMT.
Organisers stressed that the protest should be peaceful, after the deaths this week of two protesting truckers, one in Spain and one in Portugal.
The demonstration comes in the wake of a month of go-slows, protests, strikes and demonstrations by truck drivers and fishermen across large parts of Europe at the high price of fuel.
The independent “Platform” grouping was the first to call for an indefinite strike in Spain, on June 6th, before being joined three days later by Fenadismer, the union of small truck owners.
The strike, and accompanying go-slow and picketed barricades, caused chaos on the Spanish road network, and particular problems for the delivery of fresh goods and parts for car plants.
Traffic circulation has slowly returned to normal, after police cleared picket lines and lifted barricades.
However, both Fenadsimer and “Platform” are continuing to call for an open-ended strike.
Fenadismer represents 70,000 of the 381,000 lorries on Spanish roads, whilst no official figures is available for “Platform.”
Colombia truckers strike over fuel costs
Mon Jun 16, 2008
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian truck drivers went on strike on Monday to protest high fuel prices, tolls and freight payments, but the government said the shutdown would have only limited impact.Colombian truckers joined demonstrations by transporters from Europe to Asia who are demanding help in managing costs as world oil prices soar to record highs.
President Alvaro Uribe planned to meet with the striking drivers on Monday to work out an agreement to end the protest. But the government said so far the strike had a minimal effect on deliveries to ports and supply centres.
The Colombian Truckers Association said most of its members, or around 145,000 drivers, had joined the strike, which started at midnight on Sunday after talks with the transport ministry fell apart.
“Yesterday, about 40 percent of the cargo transporters were parked and today all them will join this strike, because it is not fair we have to keep working at a loss,” association president Nemesio Castillo told local radio.
Freight agreements, fuel costs, toll prices and access to credits were among the points the truckers wanted to address with the government, he said.
Coffee exporters in the world’s No. 3 grower had sent some deliveries to port early in anticipation and expect no impact if the strike lasted three or four days, said Jorge Lozano, president of the Asoexport coffee exporters association.
Transport Minister Andres Uriel Gallego said reports from early morning showed the strike had limited impact and no roadways were blocked by protesters. The Pacific port of Buenaventura had some reduced traffic, he said.
“Ports on the coast in Santa Marta, Cartagena and Barranquilla are absolutely normal with some reductions in Buenaventura and fuel transportation is normal. So the strike so far has had a minimum impact,” he said.