Thousands of people have taken to the streets on another May Day that has been able to mobilize workers in dozens of Spanish cities, on a day in which unions make the muscle of the workers’ struggle in Spain more visible. In Madrid, the general secretaries of the UGT and Workers’ Commissions have claimed that the results of the policies applied in recent years, defended by the organizations, “have not meant the catastrophe that they predicted, but rather the record of employment.” Unai Sordo has demanded “a social agenda, perfectly compatible with the agenda of democratic deepening.” “We must aspire to full employment and recover the value of public services, which have deteriorated for a decade. “It is time to invest in public health, public education and pensions,” he claimed.

Union leaders have not refused to position themselves alongside the coalition government. In his first words, the general secretary of UGT, Pepe Álvarez, has defended that “it is worth it that on this May Day we can go out to celebrate the achievements that we have achieved in recent years and that we propose a clear reformist agenda, which puts in white on black the problems that we have been experiencing for a long time in our country and that question full democracy.” “If there were no changes and reforms that affect the interests of the most powerful, what we are experiencing would not happen,” he insisted, asking if anyone thought that increasing the number of people with permanent contracts, adjusting pensions to the cost of living, LGTBI laws or equality policies “were going to be free.” “They are stirring because they want more and more wealth, because they don’t want to pay taxes, because they are insatiable,” he harangued in his final intervention.

Sordo, who has had words for “the internet geeks and those economists who give titles to each other and who announced the seven plagues of Egypt,” stated before thousands of people – 10,000, according to data from the Government Delegation in Madrid – that They will not be satisfied with employment data, nor with working hours, nor with salaries. “We want more, we want people to work less while maintaining salaries to live better and dispute the increase in productivity for companies,” he claimed. During his speech, the leader of CCOO assured that the “political, economic and media harassment began more than a decade ago with the union organizations” and that later “this is what has happened with the entire political perimeter that supports the coalition government. with the harassment of a vice president of the Government (by Pablo Iglesias) or a Minister of Equality (Irene Montero).”

A dismissal reform

With a large representation of the Executive, the second vice president of the Government and Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, was the first to speak to guarantee the reduction of the maximum working day to 37.5 hours a week and to commit, ” hand in hand with social agents”, a dismissal reform. After her, Vice President María Jesús Montero has defended that this May 1 “has added value”: “We are here to defend democracy, to say that we are not going to allow the transformative capacity of the social majority of a country to be taken away from us.” ”.

Rosa, 34 years old, and Belén, 56, are friends and have celebrated another year with the call of this International Labor Day. “I’m a nurse, so there’s no need for me to tell you anything else,” says the first, who is marching this Wednesday in Madrid for “fairer conditions.” “The issue of salary is important, but above all the conditions are,” insists this Madrid health worker who denounces “inhumane conditions” with 65 patients a day. Behind her, a group of protesters chant “we are not slaves, we are health workers.”

The defense of quality public services has been one of the main demands in a crowded Gran Vía. He had also been present, although in a more discreet way, in the initial interventions. “We defend public services for all citizens and a productive model based on the industrial sector, innovation, development and dynamism in the Community of Madrid, where its only bet is job insecurity,” said the general secretary of CCOO. in the region, Paloma López, who denounced the attempt by the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Rodríguez Almeida, to “prevent workers from being seen demanding their rights in the streets.” “We had authorization to start organizing the demonstration from 7 in the morning, but they didn’t let us until 10,” she explained at the beginning.

“They have tried to boycott the most important demonstration of class unions,” denounced Marina Prieto, the general secretary of UGT in Madrid, Marina Prieto. “What bothers them is that we have a president who resists and does not bend. This is important because in this country progress is only made in social and labor rights with a left-wing government,” she continued from the stage located in Plaza de España at the end of the march. “We defend democracy by going out into the streets to ask for decent conditions,” she insisted, because “democracy is the only guarantee of the rights and labor progress of workers.”

During her speech, the head of UGT in Madrid recalled that “poverty is not only a lack of income, it is a lack of quality public education, health care or access to housing.” “The biggest challenge for this community is social inequality. The richest region has the highest inequality, with 22% of the population at risk of social exclusion”, she lamented, for a model that “is based on business and not on rights”.

Belén, which is a railway worker, attends the May Day demonstration every year for “family tradition”, but, above all, for “better working conditions, public health and education, and equality for working women and men.” ”. In an eminently masculinized work environment, like hers, she celebrates that “the balance is becoming noticeable,” although they are “still” trying to “reach the glass ceiling.”

The main demands of the majority unions this year are the reduction of the working day, which the Government is negotiating with the social agents, and higher salaries, which balance the economies of families after long months of runaway inflation. But they have also put on the streets the request to continue with policies that lead Spain, with 12.3% unemployment and almost 3 million unemployed, to full employment.

“The main demand is a reduction in working hours and a salary increase, but there are 1,001,” says Santi, 25, who moved to Madrid to work as a systems technician last year. “A friend has a family apartment and he gave me a decent price, but until then I have moved rooms five times, due to the exorbitant rents. It’s not that you can’t afford a home for less than 30% of your salary, it’s just that a room is already more than that. It is unsustainable,” says this young man from Algeciras.

The Union Sindical Obrera (USO) has also focused its demands on this International Labor Day on employment, under the motto ‘For employment, without small print’. The anarcho-syndicalist General Confederation of Labor (CGT) has also wanted the debate to focus on the reduction of the working day without loss of salary, which, they have pointed out, represents “a battle for the time dedicated to work that also implies the distribution of the wealth” that working people generate. For its part, the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) has called to the streets under the motto ‘We will not let them end everything. Let’s build a better world together’, a leitmotif with which they warn that “the threat has many faces”, from a capitalist system that “squeezes natural resources and degrades the environment”, to genocides and wars.

Lourdes is 64 years old and retired. “I try to come every year because it is important to demonstrate for the workers, the most disadvantaged social class,” she clarifies. Among her demands this May Day, “that more investment be made for the elderly, at that age when they deserve to be treated better.” The general secretary of CCOO, Unai Sordo, had asked a few hours before that care be part of the Welfare State and a “social agenda that gives meaning to the legislature.”

Africa and Manuel are a couple. They are 57 and 55 years old. She is a bank employee and he is an occupational therapist, with a small business. “We come every year and we have to keep going out into the streets. Always, but more so at this moment, when we are allowing ourselves to be overcome by discouragement, we must go out to defend democracy and the rights won during many years of much struggle,” they indicate. Behind them, from a window on Gran Vía, two men display a banner in which they accuse the unions of being “phonies”, to the contempt of the protesters. “Young people have to know that what we have has been fought for,” Africa insists.

With a marked internationalist vocation, the unions have not forgotten the international crises this day. “Israel has to get its feet out of Palestine, which has the right to have its own State,” claimed Álvarez, who also called for an end to the war in Ukraine. “This massacre that is taking thousands of lives of people from Ukraine, but also from Russia, must end, because those who are killed in wars are the usual ones, the children of workers on one side and from another,” he noted.

Sordo also had a memory for the Sahrawi people and for the “unionists who cannot demonstrate, who cannot organize in their workplaces and who are persecuted, repressed and sometimes murdered in so many parts of the world.” With less than a month and a half until the European electoral call, the union leader has asked that Europe “not go into reverse.” “This is done by voting and building a social Europe,” he called to the polls.


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