Spanish Miners have been on strike now for several weeks and are occupying their mines. There have been protest demonstrations many of which have met with police violence. Behind the banners of their unions a contingent of over a hundred miners are marching southwards to Madrid form Asturias and Castilla-Leon. They will reach the capital for a large demonstration on the 11th July.
The Spanish government in order to meet European Union austerity plans, is set to cut subsidies to the coal industry by 63%, that is 190 million Euros. From the days of the Treaty of Paris of 1951 European Coal and Steel Community sought to control production of steel and mining of coal. The ECSC was integrated into later EU Treaties, a central role is to close mines and steel works deemed to be inefficient. The plan to close mines, also fits with EU policies that aim to concentrate particular industries in certain regions of Europe. In general industry moves to areas with less planning restrictions, lower wages, worse employment conditions and less well organised unions. The removal of state subsidies is also required by EU competition laws, this will lead to Spain becoming dependent on cheaper imported coal. Mines will close, coal will remain underground while 8,000 coal miners will lose their jobs, as will up to 30,000 people in related sectors.
The present struggle of Spanish miners has many parallels with the Miners strike in 1980s Britain. In both cases neo-liberal inspired governments set in train policies that led to mass unemployment and they also made massive public sector cuts. The policy to close numerous mines are similar, hitting at the future of the whole of a nation’s mining industry. There is in Spain now as in Britain in the 80s, little regard for the effects on the mining communities of pit closures. The response of the state to well organised working class opposition is equally strong with police violence a regular feature; in Britain there were mounted baton charges, in Spain tear gas and rubber bullets.
Former supporters of the 1984/5 British miners strike, including those who took part and activists of the Women Against Pit Closures have organised to show solidarity with the Spanish Miners. They have set up the Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee (SMSC@talktalk.net). The new worldwide union federation IndustriALL has commenced an E-campaign, making use of the trade union news service LabourStart (http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=1444).