Where Are All the Captured Guns? The Trade Unions in the Spanish State Following the ‘Transición’

A one-day general strike was held last 20 June in Spain, called in opposition to a recent government reform of the unemployment insurance system, a reform which threatened the benefit of unemployed people who did not accept the offer of what was termed a ‘suitable job’. It was the first major strike directed against the present government of the Partido Popular (PP) (there were two previous one-day general strikes – in 1988 and 1994 – directed against Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) governments), and it came during the Spanish Presidency of the EU and on the eve of the European Council summit of heads of state in Sevilla of 21-22 June. The strike was sufficiently well-observed for the unions to declare it a great success, yet, as is often the case, sufficiently patchy for the government to declare it a failure. Nevertheless, the PP government was sufficiently embarrassed by this visible display of opposition to its policies, sufficiently worried about appearing ‘out of touch’, that July brought a major ministerial ‘reshuffle’ in which around half the cabinet – including some of the government’s previously most visible big-hitters – were dumped to make room for new blood.

All this appears superficially very encouraging: general strike, mass protests in the streets, and a seriously rattled government. But this picture is a misleading one, for it belies the desperately difficult situation that the trade union movement in the Spanish state finds itself in. The rest of this article is an attempt to give a background picture of the less than encouraging situation that the trade unions in the Spanish state find themselves in.

More (pdf: 130KB): Where are all the capured guns

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