- Spain's major unions called for a general strike today to protest the Spanish police's treatment of citizens voting during a controversial referendum on the Catalonia region's independence.
- Catalan authorities claim 840 people were injured by riot police attempting to disperse what the Spanish government considers an illegal vote.
- Spanish news services like La Verdad and El Pais report dockworkers at the ports of Barcelona, Tarragona and Gerona have forced a full standstill. Roads are congested, and border crossings to France and Andorra are also closed. However, the international airport in Barcelona remains operational.
The latest news from Spain show political tensions can quickly escalate to business disruptions within hours of an unthinkable event, and emphasizes shippers' need to maintain continuity plans at all times.
"This is a very sad situation," said Ivo Aris, vice president of Europe Global Forwarding at C.H. Robinson. "One can only hope that things will calm down soon and that differences will be discussed peacefully in the political arena."
The police violence in Catalonia is the latest episode of a long battle for independence by the wealthy Spanish region, one that delivered harrowing images and prompted many European Union partners to take a stand against Spain. What happens next is still uncertain: the EU has already penalized Spain's government for breaking labor laws — causing a port strike then, too — and is unlikely to take violence at the polls lightly.
When it comes to today's strike, shippers don't need to be too concerned. "From a business point of view, this will most likely have very limited impact," Aris said. "The Catalonians are known to be business-oriented, hard-working people. The local economy is healthy, and Barcelona is the strongest industrial area in Spain."
As with the port strikes earlier in the summer, this event could bleed into further labor action, but the conflict's political nature makes future events tougher to predict. But when it comes to supply chain monitoring, it's safe to say Spain just rose a few rungs on the risk ladder.