General strikes and the struggle against austerity in Spain

473 posts / 0 new
Last post
Django's picture
Django
Offline
Joined: 18-01-08
May 13 2010 19:52
General strikes and the struggle against austerity in Spain

Details here of the next round of strike action and demonstrations in Greece against the austerity measures.

Meanwhile the CCOO and UGT unions made some noises this week about calling a general strike over the austerity measures in Spain, with threats of one on the 2nd of June. There are conflicting reports in English about whether they've now been ruled out - see here and here.

Are any posters or readers based in Spain able to shed some light on the situation over there, what the level of militancy is etc?

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
May 13 2010 22:35

I only represent myself so take my opinion only as the one of a particular but i think in Spain we are far from something like what it's happening in Greece. The unions here are bureaucratic devices, almost businesses. They don't get funding through the members but from unions elections, state subsidies. They have a TOTAL dependance from the state. Besides, as long as the workers notice that they don't get better delegation being members because when the collective agreement signed by the union that came out of the elections is implemented, it affects every worker in the same way, they don't find any good reason to become a member. Even more, unions get loads of extra money through courses for the unemployed, subsidied by the state. Basically they are service companies.

Ps: CNT doesn´t take part in the elections but the people they represent is definitely a tiny minority of the workers.

Mark.
Offline
Joined: 11-02-07
May 14 2010 19:50

alasbarricadas thread

According to this the CSI-CSIF, an independent civil service workers union is proposing a general strike, presumably in response to the five percent wage cut for all state employees. The CGT has also been talking about a general strike for a while now.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
May 14 2010 15:29

To be honest I´d be very surprised if there was a general strike. I could imagine a public sector strike though. You see demos about workers not being paid on almost a daily basis (acually once I saw two on the same day) Public sector workers are resented by a lot of people as they are considered to have it easy so I don´t know how much support they have. There is more militancy but things are also unbelivably shit. I could be wrong, hope so as I could really do with a general strike. I agree with Valeriano that the big unions have a closer relationship with the state than they do in the UK.

I´ll write something if anything interesting looks like happening.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
May 14 2010 17:27
fingers malone wrote:
To be honest I´d be very surprised if there was a general strike. I could imagine a public sector strike though. You see demos about workers not being paid on almost a daily basis (acually once I saw two on the same day) Public sector workers are resented by a lot of people as they are considered to have it easy so I don´t know how much support they have. There is more militancy but things are also unbelivably shit. I could be wrong, hope so as I could really do with a general strike. I agree with Valeriano that the big unions have a closer relationship with the state than they do in the UK.

I´ll write something if anything interesting looks like happening.

thanks very much for the information, and yes please do let us know if anything happens

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
May 16 2010 10:05

Public sector strike is on- 2nd of June.

A lot of public services, post office etc. are semi-privatised, (not as much as in the UK though) and I don´t know how much this will affect the strike. I don´t know if workers in semi-privatised sectors are in the same unions or under the same convenios (industry wide agreements.)
In Spain the core public sector workers are "funcionarios" which is a special type of position where you get the job through competitive exams, which people spend literally years preparing for, then you have a lot of job security. The funcionarios are threatened with a 5% cut in pay.

Will try and find out more before the strike,
Salud

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
May 16 2010 12:18

My commentary. Agree with everything fingers say but i'd add that the 5% is the average cut: it can go as far as a 15%, that is, for the three types of positions in the public service, the better paid (usually the higher skilled through a university degree and a public exam) will get a higher cut and the low skilled a lower one. In wages, all of them, that are not very high you can figure out what that will mean. It doesn't affect only the civil servants but any worker that works for the administration, even if they are not public servants. They are usually workers with decent contracts that can't be layed off cheaply.

Problems: here you can cut the rage in the air with a knife, that's for sure BUT the main unions reputation in Spain is not bad, is more than bad. The last 20 years any time there was a Lay Off Plan, usually the workers less affected were the ones that were members of the union. Likewise, there have been a number of short strikes (24 hours, the most) whose result was usually that the union saved hardly his face before the public opinion but the conditions remained the same in the better case and worse in most cases, although not as bad as it could be foreseen. Basically many people don't want to be used as cannon fodder by the unions. In my branch (i work in the public sector) more people would be willing to start a longer and harder strike but they don't want to lose a day's pay for nothing but for the unions to show off.

So it's a pretty complicated situation in which several things are mixed: middle-class wannabe Weltanshauung - isolated individuals ideology has been quite succesful here -, corrupt unions, deep fear, an atmosphere of a far right slowly growing, utter ignorance of social mechanisms and oblivion of class war traditons.

Is that sayng nothing will happen? No way, people are getting more and more desperate and riots can be foresee in the near future. But apart from what i have stated before there is a very strong mechanism of social control: mortgages. Loads, i mean loads, of people are here tied to their houses and therefore to the banks.

Rats's picture
Rats
Offline
Joined: 9-05-08
May 16 2010 17:06
Quote:
Public sector workers are resented by a lot of people

Better get to breaking down this barrier comrades!

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
May 18 2010 17:02
fingers malone wrote:
Public sector strike is on- 2nd of June.

A lot of public services, post office etc. are semi-privatised, (not as much as in the UK though) and I don´t know how much this will affect the strike. I don´t know if workers in semi-privatised sectors are in the same unions or under the same convenios (industry wide agreements.)
In Spain the core public sector workers are "funcionarios" which is a special type of position where you get the job through competitive exams, which people spend literally years preparing for, then you have a lot of job security. The funcionarios are threatened with a 5% cut in pay.

Will try and find out more before the strike,
Salud

Unions've put off the strike until the 8th. Government has lost 8 or 9 points in voting intention the next day of the cuts announcement. Unions, graciously, give him 6 days more of time to make up the cuts. I've just read a thread on the public sector strike in the CNT forum. Even there there is resentment against the strike. There's gonna be hard to change the cliché about "lazy bastard privileged public servants".

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Jun 2 2010 16:19

I should have updated before but I forgot... public sector only strike is on in Spain for the 8th of June, general strike isn´t happening at the moment but could be called later.
I would just like everyone to notice that I appear to be 100% right in my earlier posting prediction. Now I´m actively organising against a general strike so as not to be proved wrong.

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
Jun 2 2010 20:40

Yesterday in my work place there was an assembly. About 20% of the workers took part. It was not very promising but at least all of us agreed to strike. I know for a fact that more people who weren't in the assembly are willing to strike as well. I'd say about 60 % of the workers have already decide to strike in my place. Not being too optimistic i'd say that in my area around 60 or 70 % will follow the strike call. As i tried to bring in the larger frame of the problems we are facing in the assembly the answers i got from my co-workers were that they agreed we have to expect bigger and more threatening meassures but i think the attitude is (still) totally defensive. 20 years or constant defeat and de-mobilization have made their job pretty well. The main unions are pretty shocked as well and reluctant to bring things much further. Maybe the next labour conditions reform is the trigger we need for the private sector to move. We'll see.

BTW, CGT the faction that split up from CNT in the early 80's has joined the strike call of 8th june.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Jun 4 2010 11:03

thanks for the information - please keep us updated

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jun 4 2010 16:10

At the Manchester Class Struggle Forum I said a few words about our international leaflet in response to the austerity attacks across Europe. It is certainly being distributed in Spain - would you be interested in helping us with this, Valeriano (and others)? It is available as a PDF in Spanish here:
http://es.internationalism.org/files/es/Hojaint.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Jun 5 2010 08:14

I had a big argument with another squatter in my building about the strike, who was really antagonistic to the funcionarios, so I asked around and EVERYONE I spoke to yesterday was resentful and antagonistic to the funcionarios´ strike. The arguments, summarised:

- They have a cheek striking against the pay cut, when a lot of people don´t have a single person in their house bringing home a wage (the most common argument)
- They have secure jobs, nobody else does, what more do they want?
- They are just on strike because they are losing money, they should strike to protest about unemployment, then I would support them
- The government doesn´t have the money to pay them (for fuck´s sake- so pull the army out of Afghanistan, I said)
- They are lazy and never do any work
- They shouldn´t resist the pay cut, they live off money taken from other workers (this one shocked me)

I know it´s common for people to resent "well paid" strikers (and people often overestimate how much other people get paid anyway) but I´ve never heard people express it to that degree on the left (I was at a benefit party for a struggle)

So- how do you argue against this? Arguments please. And also- why do people feel this way? And does anyone think they´ve got a point?

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
Jun 6 2010 03:23

Sarcasm mode on

fingers malone wrote:
I had a big argument with another squatter in my building about the strike, who was really antagonistic to the funcionarios, so I asked around and EVERYONE I spoke to yesterday was resentful and antagonistic to the funcionarios´ strike. The arguments, summarised:

- They have a cheek striking against the pay cut, when a lot of people don´t have a single person in their house bringing home a wage (the most common argument)

So nice, apparently it's the public servants fault if that happens

- They have secure jobs, nobody else does, what more do they want?

Sure, if i am fucked up everybody else should as well

- They are just on strike because they are losing money, they should strike to protest about unemployment, then I would support them

Of course, who the fuck do they think they are? How they dare to strike cos of a 7 % cut? Besides they should strike for me that is unemployed, why should i support them being privileged as they are?

- The government doesn´t have the money to pay them (for fuck´s sake- so pull the army out of Afghanistan, I said)

And the government doesn't have the money cos in an admirable sign of true solidarity they bailed out the banks with 150 000 million euros and keep taxes low for the rich to "encourage" investment

- They are lazy and never do any work

How do they dare? Here in the private sector all of us are the most efficient and hard-working people

- They shouldn´t resist the pay cut, they live off money taken from other workers (this one shocked me)

Plain truth; public servants doesn't pay taxes only "entrepreneurs" do

I know it´s common for people to resent "well paid" strikers (and people often overestimate how much other people get paid anyway) but I´ve never heard people express it to that degree on the left (I was at a benefit party for a struggle)

So- how do you argue against this? Arguments please. And also- why do people feel this way? And does anyone think they´ve got a point?

Sarcasm mode off

I couldn't care less if the strike is popular or not, i'll strike all the same. The kind of bullshit malone describes i have read it in far right papers and seen it in them tv's always. To know that in the so called left millieus works the same way is no other than another sign of the decomposition of the left in spain. That such resentment an envy prey on these groupings is pathetic.

You ask what to say malone? Tell em that they'll be next, that when financial capital finish with the public sector they'll have to pay for EVERY FUCKING SINGLE THING, schools, hospitals (in Madrid the local government is even trying to finish with the figure of duty solicitors, maybe in a short time if you have no money and have problems with the law, you are fucked up twice), tell em that the money saved is going to go s-a-n-t-a-n-d-e-r and b-b-v-a, who are getting money of the government and of the CEB at a low interst rate to buy the debt the government issue at a higher interest rate. The money is going to go there and not to their pathetic pockets. And if nothing works simply tell them to FUCK OFF! They don't deserve less.

We are going backwards at light speed. Poor cannot fight nor the banks neither the government or the bosses, therefore we, usual scapegoats, are to blame.

Men (...) take revenge for slight injuries - for heavy ones they cannot.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
Jun 5 2010 20:48
Alf wrote:
At the Manchester Class Struggle Forum I said a few words about our international leaflet in response to the austerity attacks across Europe. It is certainly being distributed in Spain - would you be interested in helping us with this, Valeriano (and others)? It is available as a PDF in Spanish here:
http://es.internationalism.org/files/es/Hojaint.

The link doesn't work, alf.

miles's picture
miles
Offline
Joined: 21-09-08
Jun 5 2010 21:27

hi Valaeriano, I think alf left off the .pdf bit at the end, try this one

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Jun 6 2010 15:22

Hi Valeriano. The quote from Machiavelli- I think you´ve hit the nail on the head there, people are looking for someone to hate WITHIN THEIR OWN CLASS and if it´s not the funcionarios it´s the immigrants.

The pay cut isn´t only affecting workers with job security, the public sector workers on fixed contracts are getting the pay cut as well. And a lot of public sector workers are on crap money, precarious contracts and so on. Anyway, the argument that you are entitled to strike if you are facing dire poverty but not otherwise is crap.

Yes sure, a lot of strikes are really unpopular (the bus drivers for example) and it´s totally irrelevant whether it´s popular or not, you should strike if you have a good chance of winning.

"Tell em that they'll be next, that when financial capital finish with the public sector they'll have to pay for EVERY FUCKING SINGLE THING, schools, hospitals.." That´s exactly the kind of thing I was after.

Some of you had a debate about this relating to Ireland, I read some of it, so I imagine it is an argument which people will be having all over the place, not just here, about public sector cuts and the crisis. So if people can contribute with how this is being played out in your country I think it would be helpful.

Somebody help me, how do you use the quote thingy?

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
Jun 6 2010 16:53

Hi malone

If you want to quote, at the bottom right of the post you wanna deal with there is the word "quote", just press it and the whole post will be quoted.

You are right: it is the immigrants that have it worst. Nevertheless it's not only them that are being targeted neither the puiblic servants. Recently i am starting to hear from right wing people that the women should stay at home in order to let their husbands get their jobs. Considering how things are going maybe in the future we hear it too coming from so-called left wing people. The kind of answers we are getting recently only show the unbeliavable progress of chauvinism, machoism, masoquism and xenophobia in the spaniards' heads. Despair is turning this country more and more authoritarian and right wing.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jun 6 2010 19:47

Did you open up the leaflet? What is your opinion?

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jun 7 2010 08:10

There's a also a specific leaflet for Spain

http://fr.internationalism.org/icconline/2010/plan_d_austerite_du_gouvernement_zapatero_la_pire_attaque_contre_les_travailleurs.html

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
Jun 7 2010 21:29

Yes i opened the leaflet in spanish and the other one in french.

The one in spanish don't say any specific thing about Spain but about Greece. Nothing much interesting. Besidest here is a problem with the language:proletariat, worker's fight specialists, calls to internationalism and against separation...all of those things are true but the most part of the precarized young workers in here, which are the ones that are more able to radicalize the conflict, are the ones that haven't got a clue what the leaflet is talking about. They don't understand this language anymore. I'm not saying that this is not gonna change but for the momment and in the near future, it's not gonna happen. Maybe the ones that have written it haven't got much contact with young workers.

In the second, the french one, to call the public servants not to have a separate struggle and maintain open assemblys to all the workers is obviously the minimum that should be done, but it reveals a lack of knowledge of the situation in the public sector: there are lots of different contracts and levels. If you have read what malone and i have said the fight is still totally defensive and have just started. In the internal assembly hardly a 10-20 % of the public servants took part. I wouldn't say it's isolated cos i still don't know. We'll see in the future, for now i hope we have success in terms of numbers tomorrow. Nothing else can be expected yet.

I'm not gonna be optimistic, you know. We've all been expecting the end of capitalism with each crisis before. Let's be cold headed and constant for once. This gonna be a loooooooooooooooooooong fight.

Edit: I've changed in the second paragraph "least" for "minimum". I think it wasn't clear what i wanted to say: i meant that setting up and maintaining open assemblys to all workers would be, if possible right now, an obvious and great step forward.

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
Jun 7 2010 10:36

Something that i didn't know: CNT-Andalucía has joined the call for tomorrow's strike too:

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Jun 8 2010 12:43

The French unions have been doing it for ages but the BBC reports this morning that the Spanish unions have organised separate demonstrations at separate times in Madrid today. They have also organised separate demonstrations in workers' centres througout Spain.
This is the beginning of a long and hard struggle but the Spanish unions have today shown their capacity to divide the workers.

Valeriano Orobó...
Offline
Joined: 12-05-10
Jun 8 2010 14:47
baboon wrote:
The French unions have been doing it for ages but the BBC reports this morning that the Spanish unions have organised separate demonstrations at separate times in Madrid today. They have also organised separate demonstrations in workers' centres througout Spain.
This is the beginning of a long and hard struggle but the Spanish unions have today shown their capacity to divide the workers.

The spanish unions have been doin it for ages too. Anyway, waiting for broader reports i'd dare to say that the strike, at least in my region, has failed: it hasn't got to 50 % which is a faliure. Different reasons spring to mind:

- The strike has been improvised. The main unions UGT and CCOO, who didn't want to strike, waited for the last moment to call it, once the cuts were already approved. Only in the last moment, and only some of the local sections, the minoritary unions joined. Besides the main unions reputation is null right now, they are seen as maffias that trade with workers rights. Rightfully so but that shouldn't justify no one not to strike when the state is attacking you all the same.

- There is a law of minimum services for "essential services": that is that the state reserves to itself the privilege to assure a minimum of workers working on the public sector during a strike. The law that regulates it is a 1977 law which hasn't been abolished. If Franco died in 1975 and the constitution was approved in 1978 that means that this is a francoist law, a law that has allowed the local government in Madrid to imppose MORE THAN A THIRD of minimum services in the region, which means that in case of a total success the strike would have never reached more than 66 % of the workers. I think you don't have minimum services in Britain. I don't know elsewhere in Europe.

- My fellow workers are to blame too: too much apathy, too much fear and too much greed. The refusal to accept losing a day's loan it's gonna cost us much more in the future. People are always moaning but always expect another one to fight for them.

I'll bring you more info whenever i got it.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Jun 8 2010 15:10

I agree, I don´t know details yet about the whole city but the court was working normally, although some council buildings were closed, in the university most people were on strike but that´s the university, people from other pickets in various sectors were telling us that a lot of people crossed the picket line.

The demo wasn´t divided into separate unions but it was only medium sized, I´ve seen bigger. I agree with Valeriano that this is a defensive strike and it´s not Greece Mark II by any means. I´m writing something about the pickets I went to, I´ll post it up soon.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Jun 8 2010 20:45

Ok here´s my strike report...

I went to the university first thing this morning and there were maybe 50 people picketing but actually physically blocking the gate there were about 15 of us, so we could only block one gate, so people who wanted to cross the picket line could and did. If we´d had another 15 people or if the rest had been prepared to picket more actively we could have been much more effective. Even though there was another gate round the back, some people were physically trying to claw their way through the picket line, I´ve never seen such up-for-it scabs in a teachers´ strike.

So after a while some of us, teachers and students, went in to the university to close it down and we went in with a drum and megaphone (was pretty exciting actually) and went round looking for classes, but every occupied room we found they were doing exams not classes, and we piled in and tried to talk them into walking out but they weren´t having any of it and were really pissed off with us and in the end we didn´t stop them doing their exams. In fact we did this for hours as we went on to two different university buildings and went in interrupting the exams and then didn´t actually stop the exams, this tactic for me was a little bit confusing really.

We went to the court, which as I said was working normally, as there were field workers in court today because they occupied a building for a protest, something to do with fruit (I´m sorry, but I asked five people what it was about, and that´s all I understood) and then went to the demo. The demo was unitario but not that big. The posties were singing "Bankers to the bonfire" that was the best bit really. There were various unions, Comisiones, UGT, CGT, SAT, a public sector unon which I can´t remember the name of and I also saw a few placards from the police union! There might have been other unions there, that´s what I saw, I had to go early.

For clarification, I don´t work in the university, or in the public sector at all, I was there as my friend works there and asked me to come and help with the picketing, so I don´t know much about the strategies, level of militancy etc. I´m talking to people who do work in the public sector to try to get a useful overview.

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
Jun 8 2010 22:47

Yeah, cheers mate.. keep us posted!

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Jun 9 2010 18:17

According to the newspapers in Seville only 11% of the public sector workers were on strike.

There is a labour reform that´s trying to make it easier to sack people, in Spain there´s more protection against dismissal, if it´s proved to be "without due cause" then the employer has to give you a payment based on number of years worked, the government is trying to reduce it drastically. The proportion of people on short term contracts is supposed to be even higher here than in the UK so those people aren´t covered by it. Then an awful lot of people work off the books. The newspapers were saying that the public sector strike was a failed rehearsal for a general strike against the labour reform.

About servicios minimos- no we don´t have that in the UK. Some people who were trying to cross the picket line were telling us that they were servicios minimos but they were lying.

Tomorrow the posties are on strike in Seville, I´ll go to the picket and report.

medwards's picture
medwards
Offline
Joined: 9-01-09
Jun 10 2010 23:42

Hey Fingers, thanks for the heads up on this thead:

I was in Barcelona for the 8th. Some background stuff as I understood it at the time that might be worth talking about:
75% of people struck in Catalonia. Really big demos, but no pickets as far as I saw other than what I did. Labour reform is going to remove a lot of job protection in the public sector, for your squatter buddies you should point out that if they think the labour market is bad right now just wait until half the public sector gets laid off.

Where is everyone? Fingers: Seville? Vall: ?

OK I was at an information picket at one of UAB's (universidad autonoma de barcelona) outlying campuses. The person I was staying with works there as a teacher. We split up into three groups and were able to block most traffic entering. Probably 1/3 to 1/4 of the participants were students in solidarity so no matter who you were you got a good lecture from someone in your line of work. Later in the morning many many more students a couple of whom pitched in, most just hung out. I nearly got run over. We managed to screw up traffic around the university and out to the highway which was the main objective in solidarity with the strike.

Wrapped up around midday to attend the demo in Barcelona proper. Lots of curiousity about whether Renfe struck or not, I think spirits dampening a bit when the consensus was that they had not. I think this was misreported as I saw TV news coverage of what looked like minimum service trains. The demo in Barcelona was way bigger than anything I've ever been to but I live in a hick town in Canada (I'm friends with EdmontonWobbly and Bryan). Went to a squat to try and get in on a protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners but arrived late. Checked email and news, initial reports of the demos had the cops claiming 30K, with the news claiming 75-150K. Went to the CGT evening march, ran into a union organizer with a public sector union in Albany, NY.

My assessment is that walking around all day isn't going to do shit to stop austerity, but there's definitely potential once the union bureaucrats get scraped off. There was a general assembly the day before the UAB action with all the unions with the bureaucrats trying to just force through a decision to do nothing and CGT/affiliates arguing for a more significant action and planned actions for the rest of the week. The majority of rank-and-file in the mainstream unions were in favour of these proposals. (I wasn't there, this was reported to me by a CGT sympathizer)

news coverage (I'm eating a cookie at around 9:30)

my blog post about the day
It's a vacation blog so there is a lot of other random thoughts and shit interspersed.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Jun 11 2010 00:00

Hey, thanks for these update everyone. Malone apologies for not replying to your message, but these types of reports are great and very interesting so cheers again.