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Portugal PM rules out mobilization of forces as drivers strike begins

12 Aug 2019, 19:04 ( 3 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa. File Photo Xinhua.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Monday said that the minimum services were provided in line with the government's decree, ruling out the possibility of mobilization of the security forces or the armed forces, as the fuel tank drivers' national strike began as scheduled since Monday for an indefinite period. 
"It is worth noting that the minimum services are being fulfilled,"Costa told reporters after a briefing at the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority over the impact of the ongoing strike. 
"Everything goes smoothly, which fortunately did not make it necessary to order the civil requisition. So far it has not been necessary to engage a single member of the security forces or the military to drive any car" to prevent "conflict situations" and to ensure peace and order, said the prime minister.
He reiterated that the security forces and the armed forces are "pre-positioned" and "in a position" to be able to drive vehicles if necessary, which has not happened so far, adding that minimum services "must be ensured."
However, dangerous goods drivers warned early in the day that they would no longer meet minimum services, accusing the government of violating the driver's constitutional right of strike.
"We will no longer meet the minimum services," said Pardal Henriques, a spokesman for the national union of hazardous materials drivers (SNMMP). 
"There are police and army escorting the trucks. It was not the union that broke the minimum services, but the companies and the government that violated the right to strike, "he said.
Costa also warned on Sunday that security forces were instructed to ensure "due sanction" in the event of non-compliance with any civil request.
According to article 348 of the Penal Code, the crime of disobedience is punishable "with imprisonment for 120 days up to one year " in the case of simple disobedience or with imprisonment of two years in case of qualified disobedience.
Minister of Environment and Energy Transition Joao Matos Fernandes has said that in case of non-compliance with the minimum services, more than 500 members of the armed forces and police forces will be required to perform tasks of loading and unloading fuel.
The strike, called by the SNMMP and the Independent Freight Drivers Union (SIMM) and joined by the North Road and Urban Transport Workers Union (STRUN), aimed at calling on the employers' association - the national association of public road hauliers (Antram) to comply with the agreement signed in May, which provides for a wage increase.
On July 15, the SIMM and the SNMMP delivered a strike notice and on Saturday, following a joint plenary session, they decided to maintain the strike following fruitless negotiations in recent weeks with the Antram on pay rise.
The government has ordered minimum services of between 50 percent and 100 percent and has declared an energy crisis, which implies "exceptional measures" to minimize the effects of strike to ensure the provision of essential services such as security forces and medical emergencies.