On Saturday 15 September hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from all over Spain packed into the Plaza de Colón in Madrid to demand a change to the government’s policy of spending cuts. The rally was organised by the Cumbre Social (Social Summit), an association of over 150 organisations, including the teaching unions affiliated to EI: FE.CC.OO, FETE-UGT, STEs and CSI-CSIF.
Workers from across the public sector took part the demonstration: fire fighters, health workers, teachers and police officers, together with pensioners, employees and the unemployed and, above all, young people.
The march filled the streets of the Spanish capital with the colours of the different groups affected by the cuts, from the ‘green tide’ of Education, to the ‘white tide’ of Health, the ‘black tide’ public employees, the ‘violet tide’ of women’s organisations and the ‘orange tide’ of social workers and carers.
Education in peril
The school year in Spain began with 50,000 fewer education workers. This huge reduction in staff is accompanied by a rise in pupil staff ratios. Trade unions warn that this school year will be the one with the highest number of pupils and the lowest number of teachers.
Added to this is the increase in class time, delays in payments for grants, school dinners and running costs, as well as a lack of investment in infrastructure and school materials.
Unions complain that the rise in VAT, together with the cut in assistance for school dinners and school transport, as well as the significant reduction in grants, will raise an almost insurmountable barrier for many families with several school age children.
The Government of Madrid has already informed families who cannot pay for school dinners that they can bring a packed lunch to school, without clearly specifying how. In Ceuta the opening of school canteens has been delayed pending the budget allocation from its government.
Rights and freedoms reduced
The unions have also condemned what they describe as an unprecedented attack on trade union representation in the history of Spanish democracy. The EI’s affiliates STES says that the Rajoy government has cancelled all trade union leave at the central level, leaving them with nobody from the state sector to attend the trade union action.
All the above reasons have led the Cumbre Social to the conclusion that the measures adopted by Mariano Rajoy’s government have “deepened the recession”. Hence one of the aims of the march was to demand that the government hold a referendum on its policies, because, as it points out, “this is not the programme that the PP won the elections with”.
The Cumbre Social is also demanding “a fairer and more progressive policy and measures to combat tax fraud, with no amnesty for the fraudsters”.
Faced with unknown quantity of the conditions surrounding an imminent rescue package for the country, the Social Summit has announced that it will campaign to ensure that “our rejection of this policy is known absolutely everywhere, as well as the motives and the alternatives”.
Protests in Portugal
There were also protests on Saturday in neighbouring Portugal, where hundreds of thousands of people crowded onto the streets of Lisbon to protest against austerity measures.
Passos Coelho’s conservative government had announced a new package of drastic cuts a week earlier, including an 18% increase in workers’ social security contributions. This increase is the equivalent of one year’s net salary. Other measures announced were the rise in taxes and the removal of (the June and December) bonus payments.
EI expresses its solidarity with Spain and Portugal in their fight for egalitarian, lay and quality public education, and recalls that this requires a guarantee of dignified working conditions for the teaching profession.
To show your solidarity with the Spanish trade unions, sign the Manifesto in Defence of Public Education now ( On Saturday 15 September hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from all over Spain packed into the Plaza de Colón in Madrid to demand a change to the government’s policy of spending cuts. The rally was organised by the Cumbre Social (Social Summit), an association of over 150 organisations, including the teaching unions affiliated to EI: FE.CC.OO, FETE-UGT, STEs and CSI-CSIFwww.levantatuvoz.es).