UPDATE 2-Brazil trucker strike gathers steam as oil workers union lends support

27 Jan 2021 / 09:01 H.

    (Adds oil workers union)

    SAO PAULO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - A nationwide Brazilian truckers strike gathered momentum on Tuesday as a key oil worker union lent its support to the upcoming action that could cripple the country's economy, which is still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

    Brazil's National Confederation of Transport and Logistics Workers (CNTTL) on Tuesday urged its 800,000 members to join a Feb. 1 trucker strike led by the National Association of Autonomous Transporters of Brazil (ANTB). Later, the Federação Única dos Petroleiros (FUP) union said it, too, backed the move.

    A similar nationwide strike three years ago paralyzed Brazil and sent shockwaves through its economy. Although it remains to be seen how widely the industrial action will be, a major strike would be a hammer-blow to Brazil's economy.

    Truckers are upset that a minimum freight price set by the government is too low. CNTTL spokesman Carlos Alberto Litti Dahmer denounced lack of government support to improve working conditions of truck drivers, calling on members of his group to join the move. In a CNTTL statement, he said minimum freight quotes set by Brazil's land transport agency ANTT are insufficient for the drivers to make a living.

    "We will cross our arms on the first of February," the truck leader said, adding that minimum freight prices were authorized to rise by only 2.51%, which is not enough to offset rising costs, including to replace auto parts. "The minimum freight price equates to hunger."

    The FUP said in a statement that it considered the rise in fuel prices "abusive."

    In May 2018, a truckers strike brought Brazil's economy to a virtual halt, as the world's largest exporter of agricultural commodities like soybeans and poultry could not get goods to ports or food to supermarkets.

    The striking truckers also caused the culling of millions of chickens, as feed failed to reach farmers. The strike ended after then President Michel Temer gave in to pressure and agreed to create the minimum freight table. (Reporting by Aluisio Alves Writing by Ana Mano Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Aurora Ellis)

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