By Humphrey Carter

HUNDREDS of lorries laden with fresh produce and other consumers items rolled out onto the docks in Palma, Mahon and Ibiza yesterday as deliveries to Spanish wholesale food markets began returning to normal and factories started to get back to work as the truck strike over fuel costs began to weaken.

Balearic government spokesperson Margarita Najera said that the situation was returning to normal and that all of the region's truck drivers were operating as usual.

The strike commission will however remain in place over the weekend and meetings will be held on Monday to assess the situation after a weekend of further deliveries of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and medicines.

The government, which warned of zero tolerance for violent strike action broke the back of the strike in the early hours of Thursday morning when 25'000 armed police were deployed to the main ports and transport depots to escort convoys of trucks on to ferries and to their final destinations.

Traffic jams were still reported in some places such as north- eastern Barcelona province, where taxi drivers had joined the hauliers' protests.
The government has also lifted the usual restrictions on heavy vehicles to improve traffic flow over the weekend.
Some incidents were reported, such as the burning of a lorry near Jaen in the south. Seven pickets were arrested for forcing lorry drivers to stop or for damaging their vehicles in northern Cantabria region in the North of the country. The port of Valencia remained at a standstill as pickets barred vehicles from entering.

The strike has clogged traffic, sparked shortages and price hikes, caused losses to farmers, and prompted car and foodstuffs companies to announce temporary dismissals of employees.

The companies which continued their strike yesterday own only 6 per of the Spanish fleet thus the repercussions were isolated and contained by the security forces.

The strikers have refused to join an agreement reached by the government and most hauliers' associations on a package of measures to lessen the impact of rising fuel prices. Car factories around Spain also began preparing to get back to work after many were forced to close due to a shortage of supplies caused by the strike by 75'000 truckers which began on Sunday night, according to auto association ANFAC.

The strike has had European repercussions and the British media focussed on the threats of thousands of British holidaymakers getting trapped in the strike.

Fortunately, the consequences were not as serious as initially feared with the tourist industry having planned ahead and stocked up with sufficient food to last out a short strike.

Supermarkets in the Balearics ran out of fresh meat and fish on the second day of the strike and panic buying of fuel led to a number of filling stations running out of petrol.

And had the dispute run into a second week, the situation would have become serious with the Balearics cut off from its main supply sources.