Galicia Mobilises for Wages, Pensions, and Rights on May Day (News Report)

Vigo, Spain.

Stagnant wages, precarious employment, insufficient pensions, and gender inequality, these are the daily realities which belie Spain’s much-touted economic recovery, and these are the problems against which trade unions rallied in yesterday’s International Workers’ Day demonstrations.

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Thousands march down the central streets of industrial Vigo

In the city of Vigo, the industrial port of Spain’s north-western province of Galicia, trade unions rallied some 20,000 members and supporters in a show of strength as the labour movement prepares for a year of heightened mobilisation in workplaces and on the streets, pressuring the central and provincial governments, together with employer bodies, to concede wage increases, pension growth, gender equality measures, and strengthened worker rights as profits and growth soar.

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Growing Inequality

In a recent report conducted by the Global Price and Income History Group on the University of California, the breach between executive income and worker income in Spain has been shown to widen at a stunning rate. In 2017, the best paid executives of each of Spain’s registered public companies on the stock exchange earned on average some 5 million euros per year, or 98 times the amount that their employees receive. Taking into account all executives on the board, the average remuneration is just over 400,000 euros per year. This in a country where many workers struggle to make more than 1,000 euros per month.

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Pensioners call for pension raises above the promised 0.25% rise, which represents a real decline of pensions after inflation

Growing Class Conflict

In response to this unequal recovery of the Spanish economy, trade unions are shifting to a higher gear in workplaces and on the street. “It is not time for social pacts! There cannot be social peace while our rights are cut! We have to get into action and take mobilisations to the street and in the workplaces” declared Alberte Goncalves of the Galician Inter-Sindical Confederation (CIG) in a call for the union movement to pass from the defensive to the offensive and declare a unified general strike for July.

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Nationalist Galician unions drew large crowds to their rallies in central Vigo

Growing Tensions

The two major unions, the UGT and CCOO, concurred in that the activity on the street must be maintained, arguing that Spanish labour law “condemns the immense majority of the population to poverty and precarious work“, according the Galician Secretary Gemeral José Antonio Gómez. But whether these large unions will join the minority unions in a unified general strike remains yet to be seen. The internal divisions of organised labour were on bare display at the Vigo demonstration, where majority and minority unions marched separately and gathered in separate locations for their speeches, reflecting serious distrust between the organisations owing to differences in negotiational tactics and strategy. At one point in the march, a group of striking judicial workers showed their back to the passing majority unions in a powerful rejection of the compromise offer that those unions had proposed to the workers.

The history of all previous societies has been a history of class struggles“, wrote Karl Marx, born 200 years ago this May 5th. Today in Vigo, across Galicia and Spain, organised labour took to the streets in this next phase of class conflict which aims to redirect the benefits of the recovering economy to those who produce the wealth with their mental, physical, and emotional labour.

 

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