29-S strike

In case you haven't heard already, and there might be a few people still left who haven't, next Wednesday - 29 September, 29-S - there's a general strike in Spain. A national, general strike. Which means that the whole country will be affected, to some degree. Transport: limited service of planes (just announced - a previously unheard-of 20% of EU flights will run, 40% of international flights), trains, buses, taxis; hospitals will offer minimal service, as on Sundays or holidays. For retail, hosteleria and education, the outlook is even grimmer: virtually no shops, banks, restaurants, bars, offices, schools or nurseries. So if you need petrol (to visit friends or relatives, there won't be much else to do that day), food or any other supplies (chemists), you'd be best off stocking up the days before. As for work, travelling or any tourist activities that involve anything more than walking around looking at (but not going into) buildings, you should probably forget it and stay at home/in your hotel. U2 have postponed one of their scheduled concerts in Spain - in Seville – until the following day, 30 September. On the day itself, the unemployed and generally disgruntled will take part in demonstrations in all the major cities of Spain, organised by the trade unions. The effect of the strike will undoubtedly spill over into the days after; it will take time for public transport services to return to normal, and for shops to replenish their supplies. Having said all that, a recent survey in El Pais claimed that only 9% of Spaniards support the strike. Some claim it will be cancelled at the last minute, even as late as the day before, while others say that participation will not be as high as expected (except for taxi drivers, who love a strike). So why has the strike been called by the trade union confederation (CCOO and UGT), usually firm supporters of the ruling PSOE? To protest against President Zapatero's 15-billion-euro "austerity measures" (cuts in public expenditure), as well as changes to employment laws, instigated to counter the effects of the crisis. These labour reforms are designed to modify conditions for employers: currently it's very expensive for them to make long-standing workers redundant – they have to pay them up to 45 days’ pay per year they have worked - which makes them unwilling to take on new staff. Those on the dole will have less time during which they can to refuse to go on retraining courses, before their benefits are cut. Also there was the 5% cut in civil servants’ pay announced earlier this year, as well as reductions in pensions. The Spanish trade union, the CNT, called the labour reform “the greatest act of aggression against the rights of workers since the transition to democracy”, claiming that it won’t improve employees’ situations, keeping them on low wages, unfair short-term contracts, insecure positions, and unavoidable unpaid extra hours (work more hours when asked, or get sacked). And it’s not just in Spain; it is a European Day of Action, organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), with a Euro-Manifestation in Brussels ("Non A L’Austerite", Flemish translation currently unavailable) that day. Demonstrations and walk-outs are also planned in Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania Serbia, and the UK. Look out Europe – people power is hitting the streets next Wednesday.
Blog published on 23 September 2010