Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, Secretary General of one of the two main Spanish trade union confederations, explains why the CCOO and UGT have called another day of action against austerity in Spain on Thursday 19 July.
The new austerity plan presented on 11 July by the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is an unprecedented blow to workers’ rights, to the unemployed and to civil servants, to the founding principles of our constitution and to democracy itself. The measures will have an impact on society, on the economy and on the labour force, but the government is playing with fire.
The path chosen by Rajoy is one of endless conflicts, the dismantling of the State and public policies, alongside a permanent discourse of excuse for the cuts. He says: “my main priority is the millions of people who are unemployed”. But we find ourselves in a downward spiral of cuts and aggression:
- the government is again attacking the civil servants: they have now lost their extra Christmas pay, on top of the cuts to their salaries approved in 2011;
- the unemployed will receive less benefits when they need them most, which will make many of them join the ranks of the poor and the socially excluded;
- there will be immediate cuts in the public pension system, which will force the retired to pay for medicines that used to be completely free of charge. Moreover, social benefits for taking care of dependant relatives will be reduced as well;
- VAT will rise (from 18 to 20% in general terms, and from 8 to 10% where it was reduced), which will entail a drop in consumption and which will hinder economic recovery; and
- state-owned companies will be privatised and the cost of energy will rise again.
All these measures have one aim: to dismantle the welfare state. From the first day, the government has continuously been decreeing cuts, has despised collective bargaining, consensus building and social dialogue. These disgraceful measures add to a labour reform which harms our collective bargaining agreement, reduces rights and makes firing even easier, increasing the unemployment rate. With these measures, the economy will stagnate even further, and unemployment will reach six million by the end of 2012.
The last set of cuts took their toll especially on the mining sector, reducing public subsidies by 64%. This resulted in the ‘black march’, with hundreds of miners walking more than 500km until reaching Madrid last week in order to claim for justice. If the banks were rescued; if the rich, who caused this crisis, are not contributing to solve it; it is unfair that it must be the workers who have to once again pay the price of a recovery which is not even taking place.
This situation requires a quick, massive and overwhelming trade union answer. The dismantling of the state and of public policies will not be left unanswered. The two major Spanish trade unions, CCOO and UGT, have called for a day of action on 19 July in every provincial capital in order to show the people’s rejection of the government’s cuts. This mobilisation is also supported by other trade unions and civil society organisations. This action day will not be a single landmark: from September onwards, the unions will continue to work on this wave of actions which will grow steadily.