Portugal is to lift fuel rationing after tanker drivers voted to go back to work seven days into an indefinite strike, agreeing to enter government-brokered talks with their private-sector employers on pay and conditions.
António Costa, the prime minister, said on Monday all limits on fuel purchases would be lifted at midnight, while a measure restricting consumption to 15 litres at an “emergency network” of more than 300 petrol stations would be immediately increased to 25 litres.
The strike began on August 12, threatening fuel shortages at the peak of Portugal’s summer tourist season.
But tough restrictions on strike action imposed by the government, including a requisition order forcing drivers back to work if minimum supply requirements were not met, meant no serious shortages occurred.
Mr Costa said it was likely to take “two or three days for supplies to return to normal”.
Members of the National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers, which represents fuel tanker drivers, voted on Sunday night to call off the strike and accept government-brokered talks with employers, which are due to begin on Tuesday.
The union had previously refused government mediation and rejected an employers’ demand to call off the strike as a condition for negotiating. Union leaders said they reserved the right not to work overtime or on weekends or bank holidays if the pay talks failed to progress.
The strike was seen as a test of the minority Socialist government’s authority in the run-up to a general election on October 6, particularly after the serious disruption caused by a four-day stoppage by the same union in April.
The union’s decision to call off the strike was seen as a political victory for Mr Costa, but the tough restrictions on industrial action imposed by the government have been criticised as unjustified limitations on workers’ rights. “The main victim of the whole process was the right to strike,” the Público newspaper said in an editorial on Monday.
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