A mass demonstration of the strikers from the metal industry in Bilbao brings a five day-long strike to a close

Oct 11, 2019
The workers from the Bizkaia metal industry have ended their week-long strike, defending their collective bargaining agreement. Once again, it had a mass following and thousands and thousands of workers filled the streets of Bilbao, in the demonstration called by ELA, LAB, CCOO, UGT, ESK, CGT, USO and CNT. The trade unions placed the figures for the strike at 85% during this week. The general secretary, Mitxel Lakuntza took part in the demonstration. In his opinion, the Lehendakari has taken on the role of spokesman for the employer organisations with his statements against the strike.

The metal industry agreement affects around 50,000 metal workers in Bizkaia. They have had their working conditions and salaries frozen since 2011 and the employer organisations have put “insulting wage rises” on the negotiating table. In the opinion of the trade unions that called the strike, the idea of the employer organisation from Bizkaia, FVEM, is to attempt to impose job insecurity and terrible conditions.

After emphasising the widespread following of the strike, Lakuntza recalled that it was the strike that put all the demands, neglected by the Bizkaia employer organisations for many years, on the negotiating table. The General Secretary of ELA reminded people that for sixteen years the FVEM has blocked the collective bargaining agreement and that now, in a context of economic growth and employment recovery, it refuses to incorporate improvements to the agreement to regulate subrogation, restrict the Temporary Work Agencies or to increase wages. The employer organisations, according to Lakuntza, “are where they were yesterday and where they have been over the past decade.”

Accordingly, in an interview on Radio Vitoria he recriminated the Lehendakari Urkullu that in practice, he has become the “spokesman of the employer organisations” when affirming that they have done everything possible, they are ones who least want these circumstances and accusing the trade unions of a lack of willingness to dialogue.

Lakuntza considers it to be unacceptable that a Lehendakari positions himself so far away from the problems of thousands of workers: “It shows a deeply concerning lack of social awareness.” Urkullu’s declarations show “his close links with the employer organisations; when you only meet with one of the parts, in the end you end up talking like them.”

The General Secretary of ELA recalled that “the workers are the ones who most need an agreement; it is absurd to claim the opposite. The people who are having the worst time are the ones who need an up-to-date agreement, which includes better conditions.”