15 days when a transport halt put industry and shopping carts in trouble

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“We went through two weeks of protests, which were full of half-truths, many lies and even more demagoguery. This sums up the carrier who did not support the employer strike that started on March 14, sums up how the protest, which has been damaged by the sector’s problems, especially due to the high cost of fuel, has intensified.

Two weeks of strikes, incidents and marathon meetings between the sector – one part – and the government, whose heroes had a hitherto virtually unknown association and its main speaker. It is a “platform to protect the national and international road freight sector”, ie the national platform, as a strike call, prefers to call itself and Manuel Hernandez, its president.

“Manuel, without social networks, no one would know. It was a strike that grew on Facebook thanks to videos of it leaking diesel with general outrage, “he said,” and the government reacting too late. Because he thought it would not be a big deal.

After more than 15 days of protests, the strikes seem to be slowing down, though the platform maintains them. Heavy vehicle traffic on Spanish roads earlier this week approached 95% of the normal day, with no stops, when last week it was around 70%. It has already reached 98% this Wednesday.

The industry acknowledges that after two very difficult weeks, after problems with the arrival of stocks and the removal of their products from factories, it begins to see normalcy, albeit slowly. They say the recovery from the losses of the last few days will cost: only the supermarket sector estimated them at 130 million euros a day.

This Wednesday, the sector’s largest association, the Spanish Freight Confederation (CETM), lamented the “loss of millionaires” caused by the action of carrier strike pickets. A puncture or repair of a cracked wheel, he said, costs 600 euros; Each moon, 500.

The platform, which calls for indefinite traffic stops, has become the protagonist of recent weeks, practically just like its president, Manuel Hernandez, who notes the pace of stops via videos on networks. In fact, this Wednesday, when the protest was coming to an end and the strike was being called off, the platform posted on its website that “only the president’s statements will be considered valid with the videos he has edited.”

Hernandez made a name for himself in mid-2021, when he became active in the networks, arguing that the transport sector was “talking in bars and docks.” He emerged as the president of the platform, an association that has been active for almost 15 years (it was established in 2008) consisting of truck drivers from Lugo and Albacete.

The leader of the platform is from the city of Helin Albacete, but his name does not appear among the members of the association. It claims that he started by splitting the associations that were part of the National Road Transport Committee (CNTC) – the official representative of the sector – and that they were trying to give this committee an “awakening call”. .

The platform has been registered as an association since May 2008, as observed by the Ministry of Interior. And just a few weeks after its founding, in June of that year, it was one of the most active organizations in the truck strike, which, along with Jose Luis Rodriguez’s patron in Monclo, paralyzed highways and emptied supermarkets. Then the platform, like now, was the last to move from the stops.

“The association has virtually disappeared, but Manuel has reactivated it in recent weeks. In his videos he said what most of the sector wanted to hear, even impossible requirements like setting minimum rates for us, and it did. “Become a star,” said one of the committee members. “It’s very simple. This sector will not work at minimum prices because the EU bans them, we had them before 1992, but it was banned,” said another CNTC source, who also preferred to remain anonymous.

The role of the platform and Manuel Hernandez has grown with calls for an indefinite strike. This was decided at an assembly held at the Palacio de Vistalegre in Madrid on 5 March. Since then, Hernandez has been constantly requesting meetings with the Ministry of Transport to benefit from representation in the field.

Hernandez, who did not respond to elDiario.es’s request to speak, owned (no longer) trucks, according to various sources. Both he and the family business, Transportes Manolin e Hijos SL, filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2018. And what difference does it make if his company made a mistake and he closed it. Mine also go wrong as it goes on. “I’m going to go bankrupt like him,” said Francisco, one of the truck drivers who staged a demonstration in Madrid last Friday.

The person in charge of the platform really appears in the register of carriers of the Ministry of Transport, but the company is extinct. In the one year prior to the cessation of operations, it had a net worth of € 68,431.17 and a liability of € 284,106. Of this last figure, almost 190,000 euros was owed by credit institutions. In 2017, the company raised € 812,208, had a profit of € 22,255 and had only one person, a woman, according to its annual report.

Much has been said in the past two weeks about the connection between the platform and Hernandez himself to Vox and the far right, including a photo showing the transmitter with members of this political formation and the Helen Brotherhood, which he posted. Twitter United We Can Speaker Pablo Echenike at Congress. Hernandez does not explain whether he is part of Vox, a fraternity or both.

He assured various media outlets that his association was not affiliated with the political movement, but at Friday’s demonstration there were flags of solidarity, the Vox union – though they were not in the majority – and an ultra-right formation supporting the protest.

What the transport sector clearly sees is that Hernandez intends to use the support to grow his organization, attract members and reduce the representation of other associations.

Restricting the problem of carriers, trucks to the demands of Manuel Hernandez and the platform does not accurately reflect the reality of a sector where there is much more storm and burst.

In these two weeks the sector has clearly shown its division and the problems of representation and dialogue with the government. This was observed on Monday, the 21st, when the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda signed an agreement with the National Road Transport Committee (CNTC) on a € 500 million discount on fuel purchases for operators. This was the first major attempt to stop the protest.

The agreement became a dead letter in a matter of minutes as several of the associations that make up the committee – and which signed the agreement hours after meeting with Minister Raquel Sanchez – fell, arguing that it was not enough and causing discomfort in the government. The CNTC was hailed as the only legitimate body and official “voice” of transport.

This National Committee for Road Transport is the official representative body of the sector, which has historically leaned towards associations and where more than 80% of truck drivers are self-employed. It is the same body that staged a strike at Christmas Gate last year, which was suspended following an agreement with the government to improve their working conditions, and which, what it saw, did not calm the sector.

The CNTC is elected periodically, once every four years (it has just been re-elected until 2025) and there is no platform on it because, according to various sources, it has not had sufficient guarantees so far. To be present at the CNTC, associations must meet two conditions: the sum of their partners must be at least 6% of the members of the group of associations that make up this section of the committee; Or that its partners are holders of not less than 6% of the relevant authorizations of all members of the constituent associations.

“The ministry then checks the data, sends letters to affiliates confirming that they are affiliated and, if you are lying, deducting it,” the CNTC member explained when explaining why they have a truck dealership.

Currently the most representative associations are the Spanish Freight Confederation (CETM), Fenadismer, Fetransa and Feintra. The latter three were the ones who pulled out of the deal on Monday, though some of its members, mostly self-employed, have already joined the strikes, either out of faith or for fear of damaging their cars.

However, the platform, without being in it – it will not enter until 2025 – has set the pace and deepened the differences in the sector, which is attributed to the success of some strikes, which, according to loading companies, – those who hire carriers. Their goods were a “state problem.”

It was economic pressures and cessation of production due to economic damage during a crisis such as the current war at the gates of the European Union that sounded the alarm, forcing meetings with the CNTC to expedite. And brought with the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, promised that if no agreement was reached, no one would stand at the table; The guests, however, were not at that table.

On Friday, the 25th, at 2am, the Department of Transportation and the CNTC reached an agreement under which the sector mainly promised discounts on fuel purchases, rather than a quarterly partial refund of hydrocarbon taxes for professionals. Diesel consumption and, above all, direct assistance. A total of 450 million euros, 1250 euros for a truck or 500 vans.

This agreement was not enough for the platform and part of the transport sector, which also requires a change in the organizational model of the sector to avoid a loss-making contract. For this reason, on Friday he maintained the demonstrations and strikes provided in Madrid.

“They tried to stop the movement below the ministry, in Gregorio Marano, they wanted to cut off Castellana, but when they found out that the minister was going to meet with them, they turned around,” one of the elDiario police officers explained. .Those who watched the march.

Changing the mind of Minister Raquel Sanchez, who repeatedly refused to meet with Manuel Hernandez – because he was not the official voice of the sector – agreed to see him, weakened the criticism. “We also saw very well that he explained the agreement we reached in the morning to see if he was convinced,” CNTC said. However, after this meeting, Hernandez said the strike was still going on.

After a few days, it seems that normalcy is returning to the roads and ports. In part, they rely on carriers because accounts and finances “are not there to continue without working and losing customers.” Also, because some part-time workers, along with dependent workers and unemployed companies, would give employees two weeks off, which coincided with the mobilization. And 15 days have passed already.


Source: El Diario

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