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Portugal’s striking tanker drivers to defy return to work order

The union representing striking Portuguese fuel tanker drivers called Wednesday on its members to boycott a government decree for a minimum supply service, which aims to stop petrol stations running dry at the height of the summer holidays.

Drivers have been staging an open-ended strike since Monday to demand further wage increases in 2021 and 2022, prompting the government to declare an energy crisis.

“No one will abide by the minimum service order, the truck drivers will do absolutely nothing,” the union’s spokesman Pedro Pardal Henriques told reporters.

“To tell these people to go to work under the threat of arrest is to put the country at risk, they are not criminals,” he added.

Portugal’s Socialist government has ordered drivers to supply at least haf of their normal shipments to cover emergency situations and avoid shortages in key places such as Lisbon airport and the popular holiday resort of the Algarve.

Legal proceedings have been opened against a number of drivers who have not complied with the decree, Energy Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes said.

Police had launched an operation to escort fuel tankers with extra supplies and Portugal also mobilised about 500 members of the security forces to replace the strikers and drive the trucks.

Despite the shortages, Matos Fernandes said about two-thirds of the country’s 3,000 or so petrol stations have not run dry.