Metalworkers’ Strike in Vigo
To Win, Proletarians Must Learn the Lessons of their Defeats
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 20; Autumn-Winter 2023)
On Tuesday June 20, metalworkers in Vigo, who had been called to a one-day strike by the CC.OO., UGT and CIG trade unions, blocked access to the city’s exhibition centre, airport and technical inspection station. This blockade was followed by the usual clashes with the police, which made the front pages of the local and national press. Without resorting to violence similar to that used almost two years ago in the metalworkers’ strike in Cadiz, the PSOE Unidas Podemos coalition government, with its usual «progressive” disposition, has nevertheless once again shown the workers the face it wants to hide behind election propaganda. Like a good servant to its master, the government is showing the right, its more than likely successor, the way forward.
The strike by metalworkers in Vigo was called with a set of demands that are common in the mobilizations that have taken place in the sector in recent years. Firstly, a 4% wage increase is being demanded for each year from 2023 to 2025, that is, for the period of the next collective agreement. Secondly, a reduction of the working day (by 24 hours less per month) and, finally, guarantees for subcontracted workers who demand surrogacy guarantees in the event of a change in the companies carrying out each subcontracted job.
The bosses, for their part, are offering a cumulative increase of 6% for the same period, a reduction in working hours of 8 hours a month and they don’t even want to hear about surrogacy guarantees. Disagreements between the unions and the bosses have led to the announcement of a three-day strike (21, 22 and 28 June), which 33,000 workers employed in the metalworking industry are called to join.
Just as the demands are the same as in other recent strikes in the metalworking industry, what happened in those strikes should be obvious to the proletarians who are taking to the streets to demonstrate these days. The recent experience is the sum of defeats, one after the other, from Cadiz to Cantabria to Guipúzcoa or El Ferrol, which should carry some weight among the workers in Vigo. If all the strikes that have taken place in the metal industry since 2021 have been motivated by wage demands, all have been defeated on this matter. With an expected inflation of 21.5% for the period 2021-2025, the wage increases achieved do not even come close to this figure: in Cadiz 2.5% to 3%, in La Coruña 6.5%, in Cantabria 6%… Added to this is the constant deterioration in working conditions: the increase in working hours, subcontracting, ERTE (Expediente de Regulación Temporal de Empleo – a labour procedure that allows a company to suspend or reduce, for a specific time, the contractual relationship with its workers) as a regulatory measure, etc.
How did this situation come about? What can we expect from the metalworkers in Vigo? It is possible to think that if the bosses succeeded in imposing their demands, they did so using the most harsh means of coercion, as when the police entered the proletarian quarters in Cadiz with gunfire. But in reality this was not the case. If the bosses have succeeded in imposing their measures on the workers in recent years, it has been mainly thanks to the work of the trade unions (CC.OO., UGT, etc.), which first managed to contain the strikes and then agreed to end them with agreements that were far removed from what the workers were demanding. This was the case in Cadiz, where CC.OO. and UGT, which had no representation among the subcontracted workers who were leading the struggle, aborted the strike call of their own accord. Or in the Basque Country, where they managed to keep the strikes in Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya isolated from each other. Or in Cantabria, where, after weeks of strike actions, they have «asked” for the help of the Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz (the same one who is in the government that deployed tanks in Cadiz and who cracked down hard in Vigo yesterday), to put an end to them as soon as she presented a proposal completely in line with that of the bosses…
In the context of a difficult economic recovery, with soaring inflation, with a chronic unemployment problem that ERTE cannot disguise, the bourgeoisie cannot tolerate any kind of wage concessions for the proletariat. The defeat of the metalworking proletarians was a central issue for the bourgeoisie and it used all its resources to achieve this goal, not to give in to their demands and above all to ensure that the example of the struggle did not spread to other workers. It had the government and the police, the media and the big trade unions on its side. To understand the real function of this alliance of the enemies of the workers, we need only look at the strike in Vigo these days. Declaring strikes in isolation from each other and with a duration of several days, with no more than three days, duly announced in advance so that the bosses could minimize the damage suffered…
This is the lesson that the metalworking proletarians in Vigo and the proletarians in other sectors and regions must learn. The class enemy, the bosses, has the solidarity of the entire bourgeois class, has the unconditional support of the state, no matter what the banner of the government, the press… and trade unions. Its aim is to demobilize the struggle, to prevent the spread of proletarian solidarity, the true root of working class strength, to limit strikes, to make the workers to submit themselves to only fighting by democratic and civil means, which are completely useless for winning.
The truth to be drawn from these not at all distant experiences is that only the strength of the proletarian class can triumph over the bosses. And that this strength dissipates when it is not exercised, when strikes resemble acts of impotent protest rather than a genuine struggle led by the workers and aimed at inflicting the maximum damage on the bosses’ economy; when the trade union leaders, who are the real guarantors of the policy of social peace which has brought the proletarians to this situation, are entrusted with initiating and ending the struggles, so as not to disturb too much the normal course of production in the factories, always with the excuse that it is better to save strength and postpone the real struggle… to indefinitely.
The proletarians only have a chance of victory if they return to the path of the class struggle, with means and methods based on direct confrontation with the enemy, on solidarity that transcends the confines of factories, sectors or regions, on class and independent organization, in the struggle for demands that unite all proletarians in a common goal.
Wage increases for all workers, most of all for the lowest paid!
Drastic reduction in working hours for all workers!
Against harmful workplace environments!
For the defense of the living, working and struggling conditions of the proletariat!
For the class solidarity of all proletarians!
June, 22th 2023
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