“We defend our trade union independence in order to influence politics as well”

May 04, 2017
Thousands of people – over 12,000 have seconded the actions called by ELA in Bilbao and Iruñea for the First of May. People who, with their feet firmly on the ground, have claimed our right to change things to obtain a fairer and more solidary Euskal Herria.

At the event organised in Bilbao, workers from the Residencias de Bizkaia were the protagonists. Women who have been leading an exemplary fight for over a year, defending their working conditions and some quality public services.

At midday there was an event in which Soraya García, head of ELA in the Residencias de Bizkaia, Esther Saavedra, head of public services in Vizcaya and Adolfo Muñoz Txiki, general secretary, took part.

Esther Saavedra started her intervention by comparing the strike of the 1st of May, 1886 to the one being carried out at now by workers from the Residencias de Bizkaia. “That strike, the origin of the First of May, was a model fight to obtain the 8 hour working day. Now in Vizcaya, thousands of women are carrying out another exemplary fight for their working and living rights. Both examples show us that it is worthwhile to carry on fighting”.

The head of public services has emphasised the two keys to this labour conflict. “In the first place, we should point out that if this conflict has not been resolved, it is because the immense majority of the workers in the sector are women. Additionally, this conflict highlights the commitment to the privatisation of public services being carried out by these institutional managers. For this reason, it is essential to denounce the Regional Government of Vizcaya’s attitude, as it is the main party responsible for this conflict”.

Soraya García, a worker in the sector and ELA’s representative at the Residencias de Bizkaia, reminded people that they have been fighting for over 14 months and on strike for over 150 days. “The reason for this strike is to bring an end for once and for all to the scandalous lack of staff, to working days with full availability and over-exploited working hours, using temporary contracts. To bring an end to salaries that do not reach 1,000 euros. This is the daily reality for the over 5,000 workers at Residencias de Bizkaia, poverty in exchange for looking after people. This is what we want to change with our strike”.

Soraya García has denounced that they want workers who are submissive, quiet and subdued, but they are not going to manage it. “As much as it hurts the Regional Government of Vizcaya and Mr. Unai Rementeria, we are saying it loud and clear: submission is no longer a question here. There are more and more of us who are breaking the silence; more and more of us taking to the streets. We are going to carry on to the end, until we manage to dignify our working conditions and the living conditions of the old people’s home users once and for all. We are not going to stop until we manage it”.

The general secretary of ELA was the last person to speak. Adolfo Muñoz defended our Independence as a trade union and our right to change things. “They claim that the role we play in society does not correspond to us. They even dare to defend the idea that they (the governments themselves) must decide what a trade union can say and do. And we, we tell them that no, it is not up to anyone outside the trade union, either directly or indirectly, to decide what we do. ELA establishes its own philosophy, its proposals for labour, social and politics with complete independence. It has always done this and it is going to continue doing so”.

Muñoz underscored that ELA has doubled its efforts to try to organise Basque workers. “At ELA we know very well that in countries where neoliberalism has managed to weaken the trade union movement, social inequalities are on the rise and working conditions are getting worse. We want to be useful; we want to be effective”.

Our challenge is to prevent the alliance between governments and economic power from deteriorating collective class identities. We are going to continue doing this. We are going to continue defending our right – and our obligation, to influence politics in order to defend what we believe in”.

After the event that took place in the Sagrado Corazon square, the thousands of people there continued their colourful march, ending in front of the Regional Government of Vizcaya, where a tribute was made to the workers at the Residencias de Bizkaia.


As happened last year, ELA also celebrated the First of May in Iruñea. Over 1,000 people took part in the demonstration that took to the main streets of the capital of Navarra. During his speech after the march, Mitxel Lakuntza, head of ELA in Navarra, wanted to emphasise to everyone that in Navarra they are organising and fighting for decent working and living conditions. “People in Navarra are fighting day by day for a real political and social change that works for the majority of society. ELA will always be at the side of those who are suffering from social cutbacks and the worsening of working and salary conditions. This is the key to this year’s slogan: many people are organising and fighting for decent working and living conditions” he emphasised.

This First of May has been a special celebration for our trade union in Navarra. As Lakuntza wanted to remind us, today ELA has reached its historical highpoint in representation. “ELA has a representation of 23.09% in this territory. It is our historical highpoint, yes, but it is a highpoint that we are going to surpass, day by day. This progress validates the trade union’s commitment to an independent, vindicatory trade unionism based on proximity and on organisation from within the work centres”.


The First of May is a day for fighting and demands, but it is also a bank holiday. Therefore, after the events organised in Bilbao and Iruñea, fraternal meals were organised in both places, in el Arenal and at the Labrit Pelota facilities, respectively. And after lunch, the festivities will continue. Gora langileon borroka!