SHOPS FACE DELIVERY CRISIS AS DRIVERS STRIKE LOOMS

With a lorry drivers’ strike threatening food and fuel supplies, the big supermarket chains and small stores have prepared to meet the crisis in different ways. Spokesmen for the Al Campo and Mercadona chains said over the weekend that they had not been stockpiling because, as they admitted off the record, they trust that the government will reach an agreement with the drivers soon because of the unpleasant consequences it would have for consumers. But Carrefour and Eroski said they were expecting the worst and had been hoarding products to guarantee supplies to their customers. Small store owners said they had large stocks because sales had fallen off in recent months and their goods were not clearing the shelves as rapidly as before. All agreed that perishable goods would be the first to run out because they couldn’t be stockpiled. At the time of going to press, it looked as if the strike would start as planned at midnight on Sunday. Drivers expressed their determination to get help from the government to meet their rising fuel bills by starting to blockade roads on Saturday, allowing private motorists through but stopping all lorries in order to convince their drivers to join the strike, something that many small transport firms say they can’t afford. Representatives of both sides resumed talks on Monday and Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said the government was seeking formulas that would reduce “as far as possible” the impact of higher fuel prices on the transport sector. The main opposition party, the Partido Popular, said it was preparing a package of measures to alleviate the situation which it would present in Parliament this week.

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