Infrastructure Minister tries to dissuade truckers from strike

Sao Paulo, SP / Brazil – May 24, 2018: Cars and truck drivers stand in a long queue at a big traffic jam in Imigrantes Anchieta highway, during a truckers strike.Photo: Nelson Antoine

Brazil’s Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio de Freitas will meet with heads of truck drivers’ unions today in a last attempt to avoid a nationwide strike on November 1. Drivers are gathering support to down tools at the beginning of next week in protest against skyrocketing diesel prices.

The latest rise in fuel costs announced by Petrobras on Monday has only intensified truckers’ complaints. In an interview with news website UOL, one union leader called Mr. Freitas “a traitor.” So far, few leaders have accepted Mr. Freitas’ invitation to meet.

In an interview with Bandeirantes, the minister downplayed the strike movement. “There may be fragmented movements, but I don’t believe in anything large. Yesterday, we had an interesting meeting with tanker drivers, and we left confident that they will not adhere [to the strike]. This is important for supply. We will also have conversations with other important leaders, always trying to reach a solution,” said Mr. Freitas. 

Self-employed truck drivers in Brazil are not formally unionized, so the profession as a whole is rarely able to reach a consensus. But it can happen, as it did in 2018 when an 11-day truckers’ strike led to shortages in supermarkets and gas stations across the country. 

On Thursday, Mr. Freitas told a pro-government news radio station that President Bolsonaro’s promise of a monthly diesel allowance to truck drivers may not materialize. The category criticized the offer of handouts of BRL 400 (USD 71.25), dismissing it as merely a palliative measure.