Published: 18/06/2002

While workers in Italy and their trade unions continue their struggle in the face of government threats against workers rights, workers in Spain are now facing a similar situation and preparing a similar response.

The centre-right government of Prime Minister José María Aznar (who makes no secret of his affinity with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi) is currently promoting a series of legislative changes which represent a serious attack on basic workers rights.

Under the pretext of rationalising the unemployment benefits scheme, the government is proposing measures aimed at limiting protection against unfair dismissal, reducing the level of compensation and generally making it easier (and cheaper) for employers to sack workers. Furthermore, the measures involve a change in the legal definition of unemployment benefits, transforming them from an entitlement due by right to working people who have contributed to the compensation scheme into a sort of government hand-out which can be granted or not depending on the fulfilment of certain requirements.

In protest against these measures, the Spanish trade union confederations, CC.OO. and UGT, have called a general strike on 20 June 2002.
The strike call has since been countered by the government, which, in a display of arrogance and authoritarian temperament, decided on May 24 to unilaterally apply the proposed measures by way of emergency decree.

Spanish workers will be taking to the streets on June 20 to support the call for an economic model based on stable and quality employment and on a well-trained workforce and their potential for creativity and innovation. In support of the rights of the most vulnerable amongst them, they will be demonstrating for collective bargaining rights for the public sector; for the maintenance of subsidies to seasonal agricultural workers (these are being gradually eliminated with serious consequences for rural populations), for quality education and better employment protection for all; in short, for a framework for economic growth which does not sacrifice social cohesion.

The Spanish confederations have issued a joint statement spelling out the reasons for a general strike.

The IUF has alerted its world-wide membership which will be mobilising support in the form of solidarity messages to the IUF’s affiliates in Spain, FECOHT-CC.OO, Federación Agroalimentaria de CC.OO., FECHTJ-UGT, FTA-UGT and