The First of May: “With the crisis, we are going to take the other way out, the one using the left hand door, the one with more rights and fewer cutbacks” #AldaketaGaraiaDa

May 05, 2021
Unlike last year, this year ELA was able to celebrate the First of May in the streets. Of course, it couldn’t celebrate it as it would have liked. The decision by the Basque Country’s Higher Court of Justice to restrict the right to demonstrate was an attack on the fundamental rights. The trade union’s events in the four capital cities of Hego Euskal Herria were carried out taking all the healthcare measures into account. In spite of the obstacles, thousands of people took to the streets of Bilbao, Gasteiz, Iruñea and San Sebastian.

Today, ELA has demanded that it is time for change. This was underscored over and over again by the General Secretary, Mitxel Lakuntza in his speech prior to the demonstration in Bilbao. The same ideas were transmitted by Amaia Muñoa in San Sebastian; Imanol Pascual in Iruñea and Leire Gallego in Gasteiz, who all voiced ELA’s demands on this First of May.

“This is the idea that we want to develop on this 1st of May. The Basque President, Lehendakari Urkullu, tells us that this is not the moment to repeal the labour reform. We are also told it is not the time to carry out a tax reform. Those who tell us it is not the time for change are, in turn, preparing their own changes. We know that over these weeks in Brussels and Madrid many questions are being discussed. Because the way out of this crisis is at stake. Changes or cutbacks: this is the question.”

Lakuntza acknowledged his concern. “We are concerned what could happen over the following months with pensions and the labour reform. What they are considering is for us to retire later and with a smaller pension. Bringing the real retirement age closer to the legal retirement age of 67 years. This is the plan. We also know that a panel has been set up with the Government, the employers’ associations, along with UGT and CCOO to talk about the labour reform. What do we know? That they are not going to repeal the labour reform. The Minister of Work herself has confirmed this. This is bad news. ELA, along with the trade unions CIG of Galicia and the Intersindical of Catalonia, are putting on the pressure to demand the repeal of the labour reform.”

He emphasised that this situation cannot be understood without the so-called European funds. “What are these funds? Billions of euros for the large companies. They are not aimed at ecological transition. In the previous crisis, the priority was the banking sector; now it is the large companies. There is a great deal of propaganda and secrecy being carried out by Sánchez’s government. Why are the documents regarding these funds and their conditions being hidden? Good news is not usually hidden. We have been denouncing this for months. There are conditions attached to these funds. What is Brussels asking for in return? Cutbacks. In pensions and in labour rights.”

A push to cause changes

In his opinion in this country there are no debates for talking about important things; whilst for everything else, there is social dialogue. “We demand changes to ensure that the way out of this crisis is not like the way out of the 2008 crisis. We have learned too many things now. There is not a single route, we are going to take the other way out, the one using the left hand door. The one that gives more rights and fewer cutbacks. We need changes, but we know that the changes must be provoked. Creating collective awareness, organising and mobilising. The changes are not going to appear on their own, we must carry on getting ready to push.”

Lakuntza has underscored that ELA has a proposal to achieve these changes. “We have demanded a tax reform to take place in the Basque Tax Office for before the summer. For two reasons: to increase the resources and to help the sectors and people most affected by the crisis (as is being done in some European countries). In short, to ensure that nobody gets left high and dry. And on the other hand, because the debt and the deficit that we have are much greater than the ones we had in 2010 and that was the year the cutbacks began. Sooner or later they are going to go back to the tax regulations that Brussels are demanding. Europe has changed nothing. What is on the line is the fact that this crisis is going to be paid for with cutbacks or with a tax reform that levies taxes from those who have most.

“Something is not right when a president of the United States is considering tax reforms that are to the left of all ideologies of the political parties in this country. We have asked for meetings to talk about this with the tax offices and with the Governments of Navarre and Basque Country.The tax offices have not even replied, and the Basque President, Urkullu, told us that it is a subject that is not within his competence. Unbelievable.”