Reclaiming lost rights

The leaders of CCOO and UGT in Catalonia threaten to call for a general strike whether the future government does not abolish current labor reform

The flags wave triumphant waiting for the starting signal to lead the masses towards the corner of Ronda de Sant Pere. Unemployed, pensioners, young people, trade unionists and various supporters’ groups fill the space around while journalists, wearing cameras and microphones are trying to catch some words and images of a well-known face. But the most important message is not what they can say about the strike today, but the long white banner that opens the International Workers’ Day 2016: “Against social and salary poverty, more decent work and rights.”

The two main worker organizations of Catalonia, the Workers Commissions (CCOO) leading by Joan Carles Gallego, and the General Trade Union of Workers (UGT) by Camil Ros, have proclaimed the May Day – also known as Labor Day – demonstration as a protest with a strong combative spirit of the working class.

During the reading of the manifest by the majestic Cathedral of Barcelona, both union leaders have called to a major “offensive” against poverty and social labor. Gallego has reported that poverty and social labor “are the result of unfair and antisocial policies that governments have done in recent years”. “This – he continues – has led us to scarcity and unemployment”. In fact, these are two of the main problems resulting from the current crisis. His words have been applauded by people surrounding the stage, including tourists whose face got astonished due to the protests upset faces. Ros has said something on the same wavelength, encouraging people to move forward to the left wing when we all vote in the upcoming election. He says, “this will make an important turnaround in the future poll results, especially in order to abolish the current labor reform, to make a Guaranteed Income for Citizens and to work for a better Europe”.

Listen to Joan Carles Gallego, leader of the Workers’ Commissions by the Cathedral of Barcelona: (sound recording in Catalan)

The roar of protesters faced Via Laietana steadily. Chants, slogans and posters with recognition messages moved on like a big noise compared with the one cars normally do on this road. Among this mass was a representation of company workers in conflict in Barcelona, such as the Delphi plant in Sant Cugat del Vallès, and General Electric. Both with restructuring plans underway.

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Waving flags by people on the May Day demonstration. In front, the leader of the Socialist Party in Catalonia, Miquel Iceta. Photograph: Andrea Ariet
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Politicians heading the demonstration of the International Worker’s Day in Barcelona. Among them, the Vice President of Catalonia’s Government, Oriol Junqueras, and the President of Catalan’s Parliament, Carme Forcadell. Photograph: Andrea Ariet
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This is how Via Laietana looked like. Full of flags and crowds of people walking for their rights at the International Workers’ Day 2016. Photograph: Andrea Ariet
FUTURE MOBILIZATIONS

The Avenue of the Cathedral hosts the end of a strong morning, as usually every May Day. The Sun hasn’t made any break and it has allowed that Barcelona’s streets shine as a Summer day. It has encouraged people to go out, too. Either join the protest or to spend time away from the noise of a big city. In fact, the number of sunglasses and fans are considerable at this historic square. Thus, everything suggests that many people would rather prefer to be on the beach or dancing “Sevillanas” on the last day of “Feria de Abril” in Barcelona.

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Joan Carles Gallego, with his arms crossed, leader of CCOO during his speech next to the Cathedral of Barcelona. Photograph: Andrea Ariet

“Continuemos!” (Go on!) – Exclaims a woman with a fluorescent UGT’s chest guard. The speech of the trade union leaders is leaving her open-mouthed. “Without repealing the labor reform, we will call for a general strike at the end of the year” – Ros claims, whose words make everyone standing there to shout “YES”. Both leaders announce that mobilizations will continue as well as they will ensure the struggle won’t stop until WE recover the lost rights.

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