The transport unions concerned, the Independent Merchandise Merchants Union (SIMM) and the National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers (SNMMP), are threatening strike action over what they see as the precariousness of their working and social conditions.
And those unions have rejected the latest resolution proposals put to them by officials, secretary-general of the Portuguese Association of Industrial Compound Feedingstuffs (IACA) Jaime Piçarra told us over the phone today.
Portugal has 84,000 livestock farms comprising 9 million laying hens, 23 million chickens, 1.6 million cattle – of which 235,000 are dairy cows – 2.2 million pigs and 2.5 million sheep and goats, as per IACA data.
“As of now, the strike is planned for Monday, August 12 at midnight, with no definite end date in place,” he stressed.
The players involved in the negotiations yesterday with the transport unions included employers’ association, ANTRAM, along with government representatives.
The Portuguese compound feed sector, which imports up to 80% of the raw materials it uses in its feed formulations, requires the use of between 500 and 600 lorries to transport of raw materials to manufacturing sites, daily, as well as 1,200 trucks to transport rations to farms.
IACA estimated damages for the feed sector arising out of the truckers’ strike at €4m per day if it is not included, as a priority, in legally mandated minimum services.
Some 15,000 tons of feed a day “will not reach its destination” if it is not included in skeleton services, “bringing into question the feeding of about 40 million animals", added that organization.
Typically, the Portuguese government sets legally mandated minimum services for transport strikes, on the basis of proposals from the trade unions and ANTRAM that range from 25% and 70% of normal services, as well as on whether they should include the work of loading and unloading goods.
“The government said yesterday that if the drivers will not apply the minimal service, deliveries could be assured by the army,” added Piçarra, noting, however, the potential challenges involved in maintaining fuel delivery to petrol stations during the strike to enable that minimal service.
With any breakdowns in feed supply, IACA also warned that there could animal health and welfare problems forcing rapid intervention by the Portuguese food and veterinary inspectorate, the DGAV.
“Most companies do not have stocks for more than two days, and many work with stocks of one day, due to financial issues and lack of storage conditions,” IACA said.
The feed sector represents, directly and indirectly, €2.8bn of annual turnover, and 38% of the total of the nation’s agricultural economy of €7.2bn, added the organization.
Portuguese farmers are equally aghast at the prospect of the strike.
The Confederation of Portuguese Farmers (CAP) have expressed alarmed at the potential disruption of the fuel supply for farm equipment in operation in areas “where crops are being harvested, particularly of perishable products such as fruit, tomatoes, vegetables, milk and their transport to their respective destinations.”