August 12, 2019 2:30 PM, EDT

Portugal May Declare Civil Order to Counter Fuel Supply Shortage

Tank truck drivers on strike in Lisbon, PortugalTank truck drivers on strike watch a fellow driver leaving a fuel depot in Aveiras, outside Lisbon, on Aug. 12, 2019. Portugal is rationing gas as a precaution after some 2,000 tank truck drivers began a strike over pay. (Associated Press/Armando Franca)

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Portugal may declare a civil order to ensure that truck drivers, who began a strike Aug. 12, deliver enough fuel to stop gas stations across the country from running dry at the height of the country’s tourism season, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.

In the runup to the strike, the government said truck drivers needed to supply gas stations with at least 50% of their fuel supplies. At 5:20 p.m. local time, about a third of Portugal’s almost 3,000 petrol stations were partially or totally out of fuel, according to Ja Nao Da Para Abastecer website, which tracks data on the number of gas pumps in Portugal.

Portugal Prime Minster Antonio Costa


“Unfortunately, some truck drivers aren’t complying with the minimum services,” Costa said in comments broadcast by SIC Noticias television station after meeting with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in Lisbon. “We need to ensure that the country is operating normally.”

Costa said he was going to meet with his Cabinet on Aug. 12 to consider the civil order. Portugal’s southern Algarve region, a popular European vacation destination, has been the area most affected by the strike, said Costa. The truck drivers’ strike began at midnight to protest low wages. Last week, the government declared an “energy emergency” ahead of the strike.

A similar strike in April led to fuel shortages across the country. It ended four days later, but talks about possible salary increases broke down, prompting unions to call this week’s strike for an indefinite period.

The protest takes place less than two months before a general election scheduled for Oct. 6, with the governing Socialist party ahead by 15.2 percentage points of the center-right Social Democrats, the main opposition party, according to a survey published on the website of TVI television channel July 30. Costa said the upcoming elections would not limit his government’s authority.

“The government isn’t a hostage of the elections,” said Costa. “We will carry out duties as we should regardless of the electoral cost that those measures might have.”