Spain ready to negotiate with truckers to avoid Christmas strike

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MADRID, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Spain’s government is prepared to negotiate with truck drivers and believes a three-day strike called by an industry association in the run-up to Christmas can be avoided, two ministers said on Thursday.

“I am convinced that through dialogue and agreement we will be able to overcome this crisis and avoid the strike that has been announced,” Transport Minister Raquel Sanchez said at an event where she announced a 400 million euro ($462.56 million)investment in decarbonising road transport.

While recognising that the government was aware of problems faced by the sector including soaring fuel prices, she said that some issues were outside her control.

“Many of their demands go beyond the competence of the ministry but are instead to do with private relations with companies,” she said.

Despite her conciliatory tone, Sanchez also stressed the need to boost rail transport, a move that is unlikely to be well received by hauliers. “We must make it possible to conduct a greater proportion of freight transport, which is currently carried by road, by rail.”

In parallel, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said the government was sensitive to the needs of the sector, which she described as strategically essential, and suggested negotiations should avert the need for industrial action.

“There is still time to try to find a solution because it is obviously not desirable to have a strike on those dates,” she told state broadcaster TVE on Thursday morning.

The national truck driving association announced on Wednesday that its members would strike from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22, citing abandonment by the government and exploitative behaviour by clients.

Negotiations over a package of requests the association presented last year – including prohibiting drivers from loading and unloading merchandise, building safe rest areas and state support in the face of rising fuel prices – did not bear fruit.

($1 = 0.8648 euros)

(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette, writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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