The Madrid march and demonstration, organized by IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliates FITAG-UGT and FI-CC.OO. unions and supported their respective confederations, began with a standing ovation for the hundreds of miners who arrived on foot from the coalfields, mostly in northern Spain. The first marchers set off on 22 June, passing through many communities on the way to Madrid, and receiving strong support throughout the 400km route. Fireworks, chants of “No to the closure of coal mining”, and fiery speeches were let off at the Plaza de Colón, under global attention and wide press coverage.
IndustriALL Global Union was present at the demonstration through its Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan who conveyed solidarity from millions of members around the world to marching and striking miners. “This struggle is a symbol that demonstrates to governments and multinational corporations that the miners want to work, want to produce, want an economy that serves the people, not the banks and financiers,” Özkan said in his statement. General Secretaries of the UGT and CCOO, Cándido Méndez and Ignacio Fernández Toxo as well as Antonio Deusa Pedrazo of FITAG-UGT and Felipe Lopez of FI-CC.OO. also delivered uplifting speeches, pledging to continue the demonstrations indefinitely until the government sits down to negotiate a reversal of their policy.
Riot police deployed by the government have already caused havoc in the mining communities over recent weeks. Yesterday they met some demonstrators with rubber bullets and extreme aggression. At least 76 miners and supporters were injured in clashes with police. Miners are reporting indiscriminate police shooting of rubber bullets. Police brutality with truncheons included use against an 11 year old girl who was seriously hurt.
At the same time, Prime Minister Rajoy attempted to divert public attention and anger away from the miners’ struggle by announcing further austerity measures that will primarily affect the poor. This included a 3 per cent rise in VAT and a 3.5-billion-euro cut to local government spending.
The proposed cuts break with an agreement between unions and the government last year to slowly reduce subsidies over a period of five years. Now the right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy is attempting to cut 64 per cent immediately in harsh austerity measures that would kill the industry, condemn 8,000 mineworkers and their families, a total of 30,000 workers indirectly, to pay for the financial crisis.
Writing to the Spanish Prime Minister last week, IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina stated “It is our belief that this policy, which your government takes in accordance with the European Union authorities’ decision, does not take into account social consequences, and is based on illogical economical assessments.”