After a serious of localised industrial actions, Spanish coal miners, in the main mining regions of Asturias and Castile and León, went on indefinite strike on 29 May. This is their response to the announcement by the right wing government of Mariano Rajoy that subsidies to the coal mining regions will be massively cut, in effect announcing his intention to close down the industry.
The cuts mean the end of the remaining 8,000 miners’ jobs, with another 30,000 jobs affected indirectly. Many of the mining communities, particularly in the mountainous border region between Asturias and Castile and León, where they are geographically very isolated, will be wiped out.
The miners’ unions, the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and the Union General de Trajabadores (UGT), are united in their response, and the strike is 100% solid, energetically supported by their communities. Even the local police seem friendly.
Groups of miners at Candín, Santa Cruz, and elsewhere, have organised “stay down” strikes or in some localities occupied the local government offices. There have been numerous demonstrations by and in support of the miners and “piquetes” have regularly blocked various motorways in the region.
The Government has sent in the loathed Civil Guard, who appear to be totally ineffective in responding to the miners’ hit and run guerrilla tactics. On occasions they have turned their anger and frustrations on ordinary villagers. On one occasion they fired rubber bullets into a group of mothers and their children gathered outside a village school.
On 18 June the miners’ unions called a regional general strike which was strongly supported in both Asturias and Castile and León. A few days later the women of the mining regions descended on the Senate building in Madrid and faced off politicians and police in a stormy confrontation. On Friday 22 June over a hundred miners set off on a “Black March” to Madrid, where they will eventually camp out in front of the government buildings.
This could be a long strike, and for the Spanish miners to win it is essential that they receive our support. This is not a small localised dispute. The Spanish miners are the first major group of workers in the whole of Europe to go on indefinite strike against the neo-liberal austerity measures being inflicted on millions across the continent.
Nor should it be forgotten that in the British miners’ strike of 1984-5 Spanish miners were generous in the extreme with their support and solidarity. It is now time to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
To this end a Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee (SMSC) has been formed in the UK by ex-miners and other activists and trade unionists. The Honorary Chair is Ian Lavery, the ex-National President of the NUM and now a Labour MP; the work of the committee is also supported by the Justice for Mineworkers Campaign and Chris Kitchen, the present National Secretary of the NUM. The RMT has announced its support, along with the TUC General Council, and among many messages of support has been one from filmmaker Ken Loach.
Two members of the SMSC visited Spain very recently to discuss how help could be best organised and to spread the message that the Spanish miners are not standing alone. The SMSC has been recognised by the CCOO and UGT, and a bank account is in the process of being set up, able to channel funds to the striking miners and their families. It is hoped that a delegation of striking miners will be able to visit the UK shortly.
Please help support the Spanish miners by sending a donation to the solidarity fund. At the moment we can only accept cheques; please make these out to “Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee”and send them to: John Cunningham (SMSC), 136 Regent Court, Bradfield Road, Sheffield S6 2BW, South Yorkshire. As soon as bank details are finalised the Committee will publicise these as widely as possible giving all the necessary information for you to make donations on a regular basis, including taking out standing orders.
This is a monumental dispute. The Spanish miners and their families must not be starved into submission.