Roca radiators strike, 1976-7

Striking Roca workers assembly

Background information and two strike bulletins put out by the assembly of strikers at the Roca radiator manufacturing plant in Gava, Spain in 1976-7.

Roca Radiators Ltd is situated in Gava, some 35 km south west of Barcelona. Founded at the beginning of the century by the Roca family it now employs some 4,500 workers and is listed as the 65th largest company is Spain. Some 20% of the share capital was owned by American Standard but these shares were sold as soon as the strike began.

The strike, which began at the beginning of November 1976, was a response to the dismissal of a worker. Demanding that the 1973 work contract (which set a 48 hour week) be reviewed, the attitudes of the management hardened and the civil guard was called in. The strike was attacked by management, government and unions alike and the strikers were physically attacked by the right wing guerrillas of christ the king.

The strikers were financially supported by workers in many other companies through a strike fund, although many Roca workers had to take on part-time jobs in order to survive.

The strike ended on 11 February 1977, after lasting almost 100 days. 42 workers, 35 of them ex-delegates from the workers' assembly were dismissed. Given 'the lack of solidarity in the region', as one worker put it, the strikers were forced to return to work without any of their demands being satisfied.

Number 2 (of the strike bulletin)
TO ALL THE WORKERS AND THE POPULATION IN GENERAL Given the constant distortions made in the press about our struggle against dismissals, as well as the slanders made against all Roca workers, we want to make public our protest and clarify our positions to all the working class and the population. The company, the authorities, the civil guard and armed fascist gangs have contrived an all-out attack on the workers, designed to influence the course of the struggle, make us work like idiots and leave the 42 dismissed workers in the street. In this, the press (though not the periodicals) has participated fully, deforming and putting so-called news in a way which favours the bosses, since it is they who have the money to pay for the news, something which we haven't. Really this must be the freedom of the press which is being given by the political reforms, the same as over the last 40 years. The communique signed by the general manager of 'Roca Radiators Ltd.' which was published in the press is a case in point. In this it was said that due to the abandoning of the furnaces it would be impossible to restart production for approximately three months, now they say that the situation can return to normal in eight days. To see that the Roca workers have never given up the intention to negotiate, it should be borne in mind that we have written to the civil governor, the provincial delegate of the unions, to the press, even through the archbishop, without getting a reply of any kind. Nor did the trade union provincial delegate accept the committee of ten workers who were elected in a general assembly by a show of hands, saying that the vote had to be by secret ballot and forgetting that previously the contract committee had been elected by the same method and was recognised. Nor did they accept the regional committee proposed by the assembly of Roca workers. It was equally rejected in Madrid by the minister of labour who stated 'we have no knowledge of the Roca conflict', thus trying to ignore the 4,500 families in the street by saying that the strike 'was illegal'. We responded by asking 'how many legal strikes are there in this country?' At this meeting in Madrid to which we'd been invited to negotiate the third phase of the contract, we made various proposals to negotiate with the company on certain aspects which we considered more important than the contract. Some of these were: exchanging dismissals for sanctions, leaving the sanctions to the discretion of the company; the acceptance of the last platform presented. All of which the bosses rejected completely, once again confirming their intransigent position maintained right from the beginning. They wanted us to accept the compensation payments, which could be as much as a million pesetas, even two million. JOBS HAVE NO PRICE.

Despite all the slanders, despite the repression, despite the attacks, we, the workers, have continued united, even as the government and the bosses want a referendum to impose a fascist reform which has cost so many lives over the past year. Because of this, 4,500 families doubt the truth of such a reform which includes the right to dismiss workers and the economic package of the government which wants to dump everything on the backs of the working class.

Given this situation they need to have done with the Roca strike. Their only weapon in open repression. With respect to this strike there have been six attacks on the homes of delegates made by the extreme right. There is the repression of the civil guard as they threatened the delegates to get the workers back to work without any conditions. They tried to place all responsibility for the conflict with the delegates.

All of this combined with the provocations in the press, trying to get us to go back to work next Monday, systematically rejecting all forms of negotiation.

Yesterday, 3 December, we the workers, very clearly said 'NO!' to this provocation, 'ALL OF US OR NOBODY!'

Yesterday morning we met at the entrance to the town hall to demand that they find out those responsible for the savage attacks by the extreme right made the previous night (three attacks with molotov cocktails burning down one of our homes). The general indignation was clearly visible at the meeting. The meeting asked to be received by the mayor of Viladecans shouting out 'YOU, FASCISTS, ARE THE TERRORISTS!'

Meanwhile when the contract committee went to the company to negotiate, it was asked to accompany the civil guard to the station to make a statement. Previously they had tried to get the committee to cancel the meeting outside the town hall.

The mayor agreed to be present at the station given that the workers demanded that guarantees be given in relation to the physical well-being of the delegates. The assembly held at noon agreed to go to the station if the delegates weren't freed in a given time. The unity of the workers made it possible that their companions were with them again at 4pm.

In an assembly of the majority of the workers and their wives the following was agreed:

-unanimously not to return to work on Monday;

-to ask the authorities again to re-open negotiations to resolve the conflict;

-to form groups of workers to patrol the houses of the delegates. The assembly shouted furiously with raised fists 'UNITY! UNITY!

ALL OF US OR NOBODY!', thus making a demonstration of the high level of class consciousness reached.

We call on all the workers, all of the workers' organisations, to support our struggle and'to combat ali the lies told about us, to collect money in all the factories and unite our struggle to the generalised fight to impose our demands through active solidarity.





Assembly of Roca Workers Gava, 4 December 1976

Number 3 (of the strike bulletin)

After more than fifty days on strike due to dismissals caused by disagreement over the contract and the intransigent position of the Roca bosses and despite the numerous and various manoeuvres to try to divide us and finish off our struggle, manoeuvres which have clarified the inefficiency of the vertical trade unions as opposed to the real forms of self-organisation which the workers' assemblies have achieved; despite all this, we continue to remain united and we are trying at all costs to break off the isolation of our strike.

Our struggle clearly shows how the official State organisations are in the service of capital (our exploiters) and are not the 'impartial mediators' they claim to be with all the means at their disposal (press, radio, TV, laws, magistrates, CNS, repressive bodies etc.). It is plain that it is only the contrivance of the bosses and the State which impedes the minimum improvements that we, the workers, need.

In ROCA we can see the real spirit of the repressive and anti-worker laws which the government of the fascist monarch have promulgated. They are the disguise for the interests which the large capitalist monopolies have in our country, allowing their expansion without ever worrying about the economic ruin which this could cause the country. STANDARD (an American imperialist monopoly) have 43% of the ROCA capital and with this they are able to influence the management board. This explains the intransigent position of the management who in servicing those monopolistic interests want, at all costs, to halt the self-organised forms of the workers from becoming a reality.

The director-general of labour pronounced sentence in the arbitration courts (el Laudo) on our contract. Yet again our demands have been ridiculed. They've offered us a ridiculous wage increase (13,250 pesetas per month gross and 1,950 pesetas for the supplementary months!). This, while the whole question of the number of hours of work has not yet been revised - we work 2,080 hours per year which is much more than the 1,957 hours stipulated in the 1977 agreement for the iron foundry workers.

Armed with the arbitration court judgement and wanting to believe that we were demoralised, the company launched a new offensive against the workers saying that the factory was to re-open on 22 December. They tried to buy off the workers with some christmas club nonsense, which in the words of the director would be distributed as soon as the first day's work was finished, threatening to hold back on those who didn't go to work. The assembly reaffirmed its decision once again by saying that to accept this 'christmas stocking' under these conditions would be tantamount to condoning the brutal exploitation of Roca, the repression by those in charge, silicosis and without any doubt, dismissals. The assembly decided unanimously 'No one, or everyone'.

On that afternoon the workers demonstrated on the Rambla of Gava and on the Viladecens Plaza to show that our unity cannot be destroyed, and certainly not for a 'christmas stocking' offered by the bosses. .

Faced with this unity the civil guards, cocked rifles at the ready, were unable to halt the demo. The workers took on this challenge and sat down on the street with their fists raised in the air and shouted 'Open Fire', 'Dissolve the repressive forces', 'Christmas without dismissals' and 'First re-admit everyone, then give us the christmas stocking'. At the end of the demo we went to the houses of the 'black-legs' of the town and invited them to join our struggle, letting them know that they were committing treason to the class and that by refusing to accept workers' democracy they were carrying out a labour of division. We told them that they would be condemned by the 'justice' which springs from this democracy, which, if you like, means the respect by a minority for what the majority decides.

On the 27th, given the failure of the company manoeuvre, the forces of law and order, in conjunction with management tried another tactic; increase the repression and create a psychotic climate of fear, by breaking up workers meeting in groups, blocking the access to the town and forbidding the assemblies. The workers responded by forcing an assembly and telling the captain of the forces which surrounded it that if they really wanted to break up the assembly they'd have to shoot first.

Given these events we have called on the various unions to begin to organise an active solidarity in the factories, towards a campaign which would prepare the conditions to link up all the workers' struggles for a general strike which could be called between the 10 and 15 January.

Also we have called on all the support committees of the Roca struggle, as well as all the factories in struggle (MATAGAS, MAQUINISTA, CONSTRUCTION WORKERS etc.) to co-ordinate their actions so as to prepare for this struggle in which we could unite our forces and demands and thus achieve victory.

Also we call on the political parties of the working class, on all the trade unions to mobilise in a united front.


We will prepare for this struggle between the 10 and 15 which should facilitate the unity of all the working class towards a general strike.

Assembly of Roca Workers

Gava, 31st December, 1976

1. Spanish workers receive 14 monthly payments per year, the two extra payments being made at christmas and during the summer. (TN)

Text taken and slightly edited the accuracy by libcom from a larger text Wildcat Spain encounters democracy 1976-1978, from