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Friday's general strike felt across all sectors

Unions declare stoppage a success as up to 80% of stores close, a third of factories, and half of small businesses

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18 October 2019 06:17 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

Friday's general strike saw a significant drop in activity across most public and business sectors in Catalonia, although the exact level of participation was hard to define.

The association representing Catalonia's retail sector, PIMEComerç, said more shops closed their doors for this strike than for other similar stoppages in the past. 

In all, between 60% and 80% of stores shut up shop for the strike on Friday, depending on the region, with most of those closing in the Tarragona and Girona areas.

In the public sector, the employment department said that the highest level of participation was in education, with figures of 42% at midday, and 90% in universities.

  • "It has been a success. We are above what happened in the [October 3] 2017 strike"

    Carles Sastre · Intersindical-CSC trade union

In general, in the public sector, some 30% of employees decided to follow the strike, with similar numbers among health workers and those on the Barcelona subway system.

Third of factories closed

In industry, by 4pm a third of factories had closed, 62% of building firms and 40% of service companies, with half of small and medium sized companies deciding not to open.

Among Barcelona's port workers, 21% took part in the strike, and earlier in the day hundreds of them marched along the city's seafront to the government's HQ in plaça Sant Jaume.

The strike was also noted in Barcelona's Mercabarna wholesale market, with 20% of workers striking, and much fewer trucks than normal using the facility.

According to the Catalan government, energy consumption was down by 10%, although the Spanish government said the figure was lower, at 7%.

Participation hard to quantify, says minister

Employment minister, Chakir El Homrani, pointed to the difficulty of quantifying participation in the strike, as many people "decide not to work without saying it is in order to strike."

Representatives from some of Catalonia's unions declared the strike a success, and even suggested that it had exceeded their expectations.

"It has been a success. We are above what happened in the [October 3] 2017 strike," said Carles Sastre, from the Intersindical-CSC trade union that called the stoppage.

Meanwhile, Marc Casanovas, spokesman for the Alternativa Sindical-IAC trade union that also called the strike, said "we could not be happier with this turnout."

Reasons for the strike

Pro-independence trade unions Intersindical-CSC and IAC called the stoppage shortly before Spain's Supreme Court announced the sentencing of 9 leaders involved in the 2017 independence bid.

They say the reason for the strike is that their long-standing demands have not yet been met, including a higher minimum wage and equality-promoting measures.

While neither trade union made any explicit mention of the Supreme Court verdict - the law prohibits unions from calling strikes for political reasons - they say they are committed to Catalonia’s national rights, which they also believe affect labor rights.

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  • Union leaders adress workers in Tortosa on the October 18 general strike (by Anna Ferràs)

  • Union leaders adress workers in Tortosa on the October 18 general strike (by Anna Ferràs)