Portuguese police escorted fuel trucks on Monday to supply petrol stations at the start of a tanker drivers' strike, an AFP reporter said.
At least one convoy of trucks left a major fuel depot in Aveiras, a Lisbon suburb, crossing a picket line of about 30 striking drivers without trouble, the reporter said.
Driver unions said the transport companies had ‘bought off’ some drivers even though the government has laid down rules requiring minimum deliveries for emergency services and other priority customers.
‘We are going to stop respecting the minimum services’ set, union spokesman Pedro Pardal Henriques said.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that the government would not hesitate to require striking drivers to work if the situation required.
In the run-up to the strike last week, motorists had been filling up and by early Monday, some 15 percent of the country's 3,000 service stations were completely out of fuel and another 15 percent were short of at least one grade.
Costa's government has declared an ‘energy crisis’ which allows it to ration fuel -- 25 litres (6.6 US gallons) for car owners and 100 litres for trucks.
It has also decreed that tanker drivers will have to deliver a minimum of 50 percent of their normal shipments.
Airports are another priority for fuel deliveries, and around 500 soldiers and paramilitary police could be called upon to drive tanker trucks if the minimum level of deliveries is not adhered to.
Costa has not ruled out requisitioning drivers if the situation called for it, while warning that even if the minimum level of service was provided ‘the strike is going to affect consumers deeply.’
Tanker drivers staged a four-day strike in April but called it off when they won a wage increase of at least 1,400 euros ($1,580).
The now want employers to give them new increases in 2021 and 2022.
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