Public administration goes on strike

Government and unions clash over success of strike action. Official figures suggest 11% of participation while unions raise the figure up to 75%. The salary cuts within the public sector adopted by the Spanish Government have infuriated the unions.

Alba Falcó Vila

June 9, 2010 01:34 AM

Barcelona (CNA).- Catalonia has felt the effects of this Tuesday's strike affecting the public administration. However the strike has not been so massive as initially expected. The two most important unions in the country, the CCOO and the UGT, have called the strike to protest against the wage cuts of government employees. This is a measure approved by Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in order to reduce the public deficit and expenditure. Autonomous communities translated these measures onto their own public administrations.
According to the Catalan government, the strike has had a mixed following. Official figures talk of 11.36% participation, while the unions raise this percentage up to 75%. Peaceful demonstrations were held in the four Catalan province capitals as well as in Spain’s main cities. The biggest gathering in Catalonia was in Barcelona. 150,000 people according to the unions or 30,000 according to the police took over the city centre with slogans against the Catalan and Spanish Governments. In the rest of Spain, the strike figures have been similar to that of Catalonia.

The leader of the General’s Workers Union (UGT) in Catalonia, Josep Maria Álvarez, said that “if anyone doubted the strength and representativeness of trade unions, today they will see the indignation of the public employees”. The Catalan Government has defended the wage cuts within the public administration. Josep Huguet, the Minister for Innovation, Universities and Business said that he understood “that people are upset because no one likes a pay cut”.

Normal life in hospitals and primary care centres

Catalan hospitals and primary care centres have carried on as normal. For example, one of the top 3 hospitals in Catalonia, The Vall d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona, has not had to cancel any surgeries or outpatient consultations. Emergency services have been working normally. The strike has not disrupted the normal functioning of primary care health centres either. The Government has given a figure of 4.47% for those who followed the strike among Health staff and Health Department employees, while unions raised the figure to 52%.

Irregular monitoring in schools

The strike has had an uneven impact on public schools. One exception has been a secondary school in Mora d’Ebre (Tarragona) where students massively backed the strike, unlike their teachers. According to the unions, 60% of all schools in Catalonia were affected by the strike. The Catalan Government claims that only 12.14% have backed the strike among teachers and employees of its Ministry of Education. Universities have also felt the strike; the government offers a figure of 17.14%, while unions estimate the figure to be around 80%.

Catalan Railways the only means of transport affected

The Catalan railway service (FGC), offered a three hour service in the morning and a three hour service in the afternoon. 60,433 passengers (74% of people who use it on a daily basis) travelled with the FGC. There have been no major problems on the roads, with the exception of a blocked road near Cerdanyola del Vallès where a group of students set fire to tyres.