On Monday the 21st of May, lorry drivers in Brazil went on strike to protest against the ever- increasing diesel prices. Their organisations had several demands, including lower diesel prices, lower diesel taxes and an end to the large price fluctuations.
Very early in the morning of Wednesday the 23rd of May, I received a call from one of our managers, who asked me if I needed to fill up my car. I had been planning to do that indeed, as I’d noticed I was running low. “Go and do it immediately, or you may find it’s all gone!”, I was told.
I knew that there had been roadblocks for two days, but did that really mean that petrol stations were out of fuel? When I arrived at the petrol station, I realised that that was indeed the case! I quickly made my way to the next one, and luckily, they still had 300 litres left! A long queue was forming behind me and before long, most of those people had to face the fact that all the petrol was finished.
This is crazy, I thought. When I arrived at the auction, it turned out there were 20% fewer customers than normal. I quickly realised we had to set up a crisis team. More and more petrol stations ran out of petrol that day, and worst of all, most customers got stuck in front of the roadblocks on the motorways. Freight traffic all over Brazil came to a complete halt and a vast majority of the population supported it!
On Thursday, we decided to postpone the Friday auction to the afternoon. That would give us some more time, to see if the situation was going to improve. Once we realised the situation was only getting worse, we had to cancel the auction altogether! I’d never experienced anything like that before. The next day, we had to cancel the auctions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as well.
The strikes continued, even when the government had met most of the strike leaders’ demands and even after the strike leaders had called for the strikes to end. Strikers were more and more turning against the government and the president. Five months before the national elections; it seems like the government’s job is already done!
The army and the military police had to come and ended the strike. Everyone who had been waiting to get through, could finally do so. Meanwhile, the cities hadn’t had any fresh produce delivered for days. The roads and our town had seemed like a car-free day.
All in all, a week of production was lost, customers’ purchased products were wasted and the damage for companies was enormous. Brazil still has a major task on their hands when it comes to reforming and getting rid of all the corruption and bureaucracy.
Luckily, the cooperative is strong enough to handle these kinds of excesses. But it does have a negative effect on consumer confidence and people’s willingness to spend. All because of a strike that got out of control.
André van Kruijssen,
General Manager Veiling Holambra, Brazil