Fiat SpA, the largest Italian automaker is temporarily suspending operations at four of its plants in the country because a truckers’ strike is disrupting the delivery of components.
Roads and highways from Gioia Tauro in southern Calabria to Turin in the north were hit as truckers extended a protest against rises in fuel prices that caused severe disruption in Sicily last week.
“The high rate of participation has exceeded our expectations and shows the gravity of the crisis,” said Maurizio Longo, head of the Trasportounito union.
Truckers are calling for a reduction in diesel prices which have reached the record level of 1.72 euros ($2.24) a litre due to the tax increase agreed under an austerity budget by Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government last month.
Fiat has suspended Monday’s evening shift at the Sevel commercial van plant, which it shares with PSA Peugeot Citroen.
The automaker has also suspended Tuesday’s morning shift at three other plants including Melfi, Cassino and Pomigliano d’Arco, where it has started to make the new version of the Panda hatchback.
The strikes are disrupting delivery of such goods as fuel and food, leaving some service stations in parts of the country short of gasoline.
“The blocking of highways won’t be tolerated,” Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri told journalists at a conference in Rome today, news agency Ansa said.
“As much as we can, we will use tolerance and dialogue, but we have to consider the rights of citizens.”
Taxi drivers also staged a strike and railway workers have announced action for Friday. They are to be joined later by lawyers, pharmacists and petrol station operators.