Page last updated at 22:01 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 23:01 UK

Spanish hauliers on fuel strike

By Steve Kingstone,
BBC News, Madrid

Truckers and taxi drivers block traffic and access to an oil refinery at La Mede near Marseille, France, 2 June 2008
The strike action follows similar protests by French hauliers last week

Tens of thousands of Spanish lorry drivers have begun an indefinite strike against the soaring price of diesel, which has risen by 20% this year.

Some 90,000 hauliers stopped work at midnight on Sunday (2200 GMT) and are expected to stage blockades and demonstrations in coming days.

Their strike follows action by hauliers in France and other European countries.

The Spanish government says it is preparing a package of measures to assist the transport sector.

These measures include emergency loans, more flexible contracts and cash payments to older lorry drivers who are willing to retire.

Wide support

Most hauliers are self-employed, or working for small and medium-sized haulage companies.

They are receiving strike support from counterparts in south-eastern France, who have threatened to disrupt the flow of traffic along one of the main border routes into Spain.

The drivers want the Spanish government to establish, by law, a minimum price for their services, and to ensure that haulage contracts better reflect the fluctuating cost of fuel.

The hauliers are following the lead of Spanish fishermen, many of whom are already on strike because of soaring fuel costs.

Fishermen in the northern regions of Galicia and Cantabria are expected to join the strike on Monday.

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