Largely unreported in the North America, there has been a major truck strike here in Italy. For the past four days roads into and out of major cities have been blocked by disgruntled truck drivers. Angry at the steep rise in fuel prices and the low wages paid by the major trucking companies the drivers are demanding government action. Though what exactly the government can do at this point is unclear.
Unlike the strikes I mentioned before that were mildly inconvenient this one has had a major effect on the country. Italy depends on trucking for 95% of delivery needs. Little in the way of goods are produced here in Rome or the outskirts most of what we consume in our daily lives must be trucked in. Petrol stations are running out of gas and most are closed - the streets are starting to become strangely quiet as people are afraid to take their cars out. Supermarket shelves are starting to run low on stock items and fresh produce; if it continues very little will be available at the traditional Saturday markets. In other parts of the country shortages have led to factory shutdowns, cancelled garbage collection and stores are showing lower than normal sales for the pre-Christmas season.
In the New York Times today, the first mention of the strike, there is speculation that it may be a political maneuver to further destabilize Romano Prodi's government. What ever the reason it appears to be only the surface of a greater problem that is facing Italy according to an extended piece in the International Herald Tribune.
Other than noticing a decrease in traffic today I must admit the strike has had little direct effect on us. Fortunately we had done a bit of stocking up last weekend as we realized that this week was going to be a bit too busy for daily shopping. Sometimes "too busy" can have its advantages.
Update: A report in the IHT says that two of the truckers unions agreed to returned to work last night. Thing should start returning to normal but in the mean time it is calculated that the food industry alone lost about EUR210 million a day (thats USD 336 million and CAD 312 million.) If though the Italian economy can handle those sort of loses these days.
13 decembre - Santa Lucia