Published: 15/09/2010

As unions build a European-wide day of action against austerity policies on September 29, Spain’s national trade union centers CC.OO and UGT are preparing for a national general strike on September 29. In the first of a series of interviews with IUF members about the planned strike, the IUF spoke with Javier González Martino, General Secretary of the Commerce, Hotel and Tourism Union of the Comisiones Obreras (FECOHT-CC.OO).

The Spanish unions are contesting a double assault. Banks, traders and speculators, fronted by the IMF, have demanded drastic measures to guaranty their bonds. In May, the governing Socialists forced through a EUR 15 billion (USD 18.5 billion) austerity package comprising huge cuts in public expenditure and investment and a 5% reduction in public sector salaries. The second assault came with a package of labour market ‘reforms’, first initiated by government decree in June and completed by the Parliament on September 9, which make it easier and cheaper for companies to fire workers.

Not just the Spanish government, but the EU, the G20, big financial players and the IMF all now say that the time for stimulus is past: governments need austerity to get their fiscal house in order. The planned strike is a definite rejection of this line. Why do you think austerity is not the solution, and what concrete measures do you propose to stimulate job creation, real investment and a strong public sector?

The CCOO proposes a reform of the financial system which will ensure control and flows of credit to families and businesses, industrial, energy and education policies which can take us away from a growth model built entirely around construction and real estate bubbles and tax reform to combat fraud.

As trade unions we sought to enter into negotiations to achieve a national pact which would allow our country to tackle the crisis in the best possible way. The pernicious intervention of the Government, applauded by employers, squandered the goodwill of the trade union confederations, the CC.OO and UGT. We put forward other options and other policies to reduce the public deficit by increasing incomes and drawing the underground economy out into the open. We also sought to reform the system of collective bargaining by strengthening it, to protect the public pension system and to correct the abuse of casual and short-term contracts.

Lastly, the CC.OO is opposed to raising the retirement age to 67 years, because it is a highly unnecessary measure. Instead, we favour strengthening the existing flexible voluntary retirement mechanisms.

How are you building support for the strike, not just with your members but reaching out as part of a wider mobilization?

The call for a general strike on September 29 is the response to the greatest attack on the right to work in the last 30 years. The sad thing is that it is being perpetrated by a government which claims to be of the left, yet which relies on the support of the employers.

In the CCOO, we are convinced that on September 29, the workers will demonstrate their massive rejection of the labour reform. We are in the process of informing workplaces and the general public of the reasons and alternatives that the trade union federations are proposing. The CC.OO and UGT have called on social movements, cultural forces and people on the left to play an active part and to participate in the general strike for workers’ rights on September 29.


Beyond September 29, what’s next?

Now more than ever, we will continue to fight to restore the rights stolen by the current government. For us, it is vital not to forget that workers’ rights are being sacrificed to the demands of the European Union and the financial markets. We have to fight those groups and individuals who brought about the current global financial and economic crisis. European and world trade unionists together must generate alternatives which can improve and consolidate the social welfare state at global level.

On behalf of the FECOHT-CC.OO, I would like to thank the European trade union movement for the expressions of support and solidarity that we are receiving.