August 7, 2019 / 7:00 PM / a month ago

Portugal braces for potential fuel-tanker strike

FILE PHOTO: A placard reading "Diesel sold out" is seen at a gas station in Porto, Portugal April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s government said on Wednesday it would guarantee fuel to critical sectors like hospitals and airports if another strike threatened by tanker drivers goes ahead next week.

The strike may still be averted through talks, but if it occurs it would be the second by fuel-tanker drivers this year and come at the height of Portugal’s summer tourist season.

“We are talking about a particularly sensitive time of the year,” Labor and Social Security Minister Jose Antonio Vieira da Silva told journalists.

The minister said 100 percent supplies would be ensured to ports, hospitals, airports, military bases, fire stations, the civil protection agency and some 320 public petrol stations.

Environment Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandos said the announcement amounted to a “preemptive” declaration of an energy emergency, which would allow the government to take special measures such as mobilizing the army to ensure fuel supplies.

The fuel-tanker drivers, who are pursuing higher wages and better working conditions, are threatening to strike from Aug. 12. They staged a four-day strike in April, in the middle of Easter week, causing low supplies at more than 2,000 fuel stations that panicked motorists.

Concerns are higher now as the strike could threaten airports and other infrastructure as millions of tourists arrive for summer holidays.

April’s strike was the worst industrial action faced by the Socialist government in its four-year administration.

There is a parliamentary election in October.

Reporting By Axel Bugge; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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