Despite the return to work by Spanish miners, resistance to the government’s austerity measures continues.
The decision by the Spanish miners’ unions to call off their strike came as a surprise to many observers (including the writer of these lines). Nevertheless, in the coalfields and in much of the rest of Spain, the situation can hardly be described as “normal”.
In announcing the end of the strike, Felipe López, the General Secretary of the Industrial Section of the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), stated: “We are going to do what will hurt them [the government] most, where it hurts them most and at a time when it will hurt them most.”
As if responding directly to these words, miners and their supporters have continued their militant tactics.
On 9 August there was a large demonstration of women from the mining region in Oviedo, Asturias, while the blocking of roads in certain places has continued.
In one incident, miners intercepted a convoy of lorries carrying coal for a power station and dumped their loads on the motorway.
In some localities strikes have resumed, with miners working for the Uminsa group walking out over the cutting of their wages as management announced a 200 Euro cut in the monthly wage due to the drastic reduction in subsidies announced by the government earlier in the year. This has affected the Santa Cruz and Alinos pits, the open cast site at Jarrinas, and a major coal washing plant at Alicia de Fabera (all in León and Castile). In total some 400 workers are involved.
In much of the rest of Spain unrest continues almost daily as workers resist the austerity measures imposed by the government in Madrid.
All eyes are currently on the small town of Marinaled in Andalusia where the mayor, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, has earned the wrath of the government (who can’t touch him because his mayoral office confers legal immunity) for encouraging organised groups of trade unionist to take food from supermarkets to distribute to those worst hit by the recession. Dubbed the “Robin Hood Mayor” by the Spanish press he is now organising a march on Madrid.
Whether or not the miners’ unions, having taken their men out and then returned to work, can mobilise them again for another all-out strike remains to be seen.
However, we can be certain that there is no shortage of anger about the austerity programme which has already inflicted on the people the highest unemployment rate in the whole of Europe.
Further action by miners and other sectors of workers is certain.