Lisbon - The Portuguese government imposed fuel rationing at petrol stations and called in police drivers to deliver fuel on Monday to prevent a strike by hauliers from paralysing the country at the height of the tourist season. Demanding better salaries and working conditions, fuel tanker drivers staged a similar damaging strike in April in what was Portugal’s worst outbreak of industrial unrest in years. By Monday afternoon 18% percent of the country’s filling stations were completely out of fuel and 17% were partially running dry. Still, most motorists were still to feel the impact of the strike, with no queues at most petrol stations. Prime Minister Antonio Costa had guaranteed that minimum services would be maintained but the picture worsened as the day wore on, with striking drivers accused of failing to provide the promised basic level of supplies. “Unfortunately, there has been a change in the situation compared to what happened this morning,” Costa told reporters, adding that the most affected region was the tourist-packed Algarve in the south. He said insufficient fuel cargoes had reached Lisbon airport and that police drivers were now transporting fuel.
The strike in April provoked criticism of Costa’s Socialist government, but this time better contingency planning could even benefit the administration in an upcoming parliamentary election on Oct. 6, analysts say. The government declared an energy crisis on Friday ahead of the strike, allowing it to ensure full supplies to ports, hospitals, airports and other priority consumers and decreed minimum services for the country’s network of filling stations.