Demonstration in Barcelona against austerity and “antisocial” policies
Thousands of people – 12,000 according to Barcelona’s local police and 200,000 according to the organisers – demonstrated on Sunday in the streets of Barcelona to protest against the Spanish and Catalan Governments’ austerity measures and “antisocial” budgets. Led by the platform ‘Prou Retallades’ (“Stop Budget Cuts”) , the UGT and CCOO trade-unions, as well as political parties and associations, citizens voiced their disapproval of the new pension reform, working fragility and the latest austerity measures. They also specifically protested against the Catalan and Spanish Governments’ budgets for 2014, which they consider “antisocial”. The demonstration organisers criticised the “blind obedience” of the Catalan and Spanish Executives to the European Commission and the Troika.
Barcelona (ACN).- Thousands of people – 12,000 according to Barcelona’s local police and 200,000 according to the organisers – demonstrated on Sunday in the streets of Barcelona to protest against the Spanish and Catalan Governments’ latest austerity measures and “antisocial” budgets. Led by the platform ‘Prou Retallades’ (“Stop Budget Cuts”) , the UGT (Workers’ General Union) and CCOO (Workers’ Commissions) trade-unions, as well as political parties and associations, citizens voiced their disapproval of the new pension reform, the situation of working fragility and the latest austerity measures. They also specifically protested against the Catalan and Spanish Governments’ budgets for 2014, which they consider “antisocial”. Since 2010, important budget cuts have been implemented in the education, healthcare and the rest of public sectors. The demonstration organisers criticised the “blind obedience” of the Catalan and Spanish Executives to the European Commission’s and Troika’s economic policies, and their gradual destruction of the Welfare State system. They summoned the citizens to protest against a “constant political ‘austericide’”, thereby referring to the manifold austerity measures approved in the last 3 years and those that will come.
“We are about to assist at the passing of new budgets which, far from relieving the working class from the burden that has been thrust upon them, deepens the attacks on all citizens of both Spain and Catalonia” stated the joint manifesto signed by over a hundred organisations. Amongst these organisations were the Federació d’Associacions de Veïns de Barcelona (FAVB, Federation of Barcelona residents associations), SOS Racism in Catalunya, teacher trade-union USTEC-STEs, political parties such as the Catalan Greeen Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) and the Catalan Socialist Party’s federation of the Baix Llobregat County, civil society organisations such as Procés Constituent (led by philosopher Arcadi Oliveres and the nun Teresa Forcades), Papers per Tothom (Residence Papers for All), Plataforma pel Dret a la Salut (defending public health) and @MareaGroga (defending public education).
“The Governments of the People’s Party (PP) and the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – which are the Spanish and Catalan executives respectively – are planning a new antisocial attack in the form of pension cuts and further budget cuts in the education, healthcare, public services and other sectors”. Such were the some of the critics addressed by the organisers of Sunday’s demonstration in their manifesto, which was read when the march ended in Via Laietana Street, in Barcelona’s city centre. “We are facing a scenario where the lack of transparency, the corruption cases and the general social disregard of politics, all call into question the legitimacy to pass anti-social measures of such magnitude”, pointed out the organisers of the demonstration.
CCOO trade-union critical of the latest budgets
Citizens were summoned to demonstrate against a “constant political austericide”, a neologism referring to the repeated austerity measures which have been voted by the Spanish and Catalan Governments since 2010. Such was the call to protest voiced by CCOO and UGT union leaders, Joan Carles Gallego and Josep Maria Álvarez. Both have stated that the Catalan and Spanish Governments were conducting budgetary policies that “were serving the interests of a minority”. “They are cutting labour rights, social rights, cutting down pensions, and this is not at the request of Brussels; it is the political will of those rulling Spain and Catalonia” exclaimed Gallego, who is fiercely opposed to both Governments’ budgets for 2014.
About the Catalan Government’s budget, which is being debated at the Catalan Parliament, the Secretary General of the CCOO trade-union in Catalonia warned that “it is clearly an antisocial budget, because it neither helps reviving the economy nor improving the situation of the people”. Gallego also believes the budget “is clearly attacking the foundations of the Welfare State”. “The Catalan Government should act on public revenue by charging more those who have the highest income, fighting against tax fraud”, and they should more generally work towards “finding a more balanced and fair way to increase their revenue” explained Gallego. He also voiced his disapproval of the Spanish Governments’ pension reform “which will make people lose purchasing power and is the only source of income for many families”.
A general strike not ruled out
Finally, the Secretary General of the CCOO in Catalonia stated that they would not waive the essential democratic right to go on strike and to demonstrate, since those rights may be “threatened” by the future Public Safety Law proposed by the Spanish Government. Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the UGT in Catalonia, Josep Maria Álvarez, said that on Sunday, citizens took a step forward in urging the Spanish and Catalan Governments “to not be so weak as to kneel down before the powerful (the European Commission, Angela Merkel and the banks) instead of attending to the needs of their citizens.”
Álvarez also announced that he did not rule out the possibility of organising a general strike. However he explained that the trade-unions would wait to hear about the terms of the Spanish Government’s second Labour Market Reform before deciding about their next course of action. “Our timetable is not closed, but the Spanish and Catalan Governments must be aware that people can not stand this for much longer and that there must be a change in policies” said the leader of the UGT in Catalonia.
The final words were spoken by President of the Barcelona Residents Association (FAVB), Lluís Ravell, who said that the high attendance of the demonstration revealed “the rebellion of the citizens and society” against austerity policies. This “‘austericide’ is putting into question the social model that we had fought so hard to obtain, and it is increasingly becoming more and more unbearable and difficult for the working class”, concluded Ravell.