Tomorrow is the first strike I'll be participating in here. Well, it's the first strike I will have participated in ever, come to think of it. Thursday, March 29th is a General Strike day in Spain - so it can include everyone and anyone, and I am someone who decided to do it.
Recently, the Spanish Conservative Party (called the PP) took office and is throwing some things around in the government. As many of you probably hear on the news, the Spanish economy is pretty much in the trash and is in need of some much-needed reform.
The current economic scene in Spain goes a little something like this: over 20% unemployment (for people 16-24 that number shoots to 48%), over a third of workers with only temporary contracts, economic activity that is highly based around static construction and not so focused on new and growing technologies and an overqualified workforce.
In order to not become the next 'Greece', the right-wingers of the eurozone's 4th largest economy have decided that employment reform is the way to go. These changes have been met with a lot of opposition here for the fact that a lot of rights are being lost by the employee. With these reforms, it is much easier for companies to hire and fire people, which is said to give them more flexibility and will boost the employment rate. While a flexible workforce may help Spain bounce back, the rights that are lost seem to be cut corners:
- Severance pay will be cut from 45 days to 33 days for each year worked.
- Young people (all the way up to 30) are likely to be offered 'unpaid internships' with companies that can last up to 3 years instead of being offered a true contract.
- Companies may fire whomever they want, no questions asked, after 3 consecutive quarters of losses
- Permanent contracts come with a '1-year trial period' attached and during that period the worker can be fired for no reason and no severance pay given after the fact
- Part-time workers lose most of thier rights to earn overtime pay
- If you call in sick, it will be taken as an unpaid day (whereas now it is covered for up to 3 days and then doctor mandated time off is required but still paid for). Sick days will not be paid unless it is a doctor mandated medical leave of atleast 10 days.
- Women will lose maternity leave days.
Many people say that these changes seem like a step back 30 years in the Spanish workers rights. There have already been many protests in response to these changes that were fastracked through the government by the conservative party, however a general strike has been called to create even an even bigger impact.
Legally, as only a European resident, and not a citizen, I am not allowed to vote. So, in the last presidental election when Rajoy won the race, I was not able to cast a ballot. However, these changes that he has set in motion directly affect me as I am part of the workforce. The only way I can see for my voice to be heard about disagreeing with these drastic changes is to participate in the strike.
While 67% of Spainards don't think the strike will have any effect on the legislature, I still intend to have my voice heard. I plan to attend one of the nationwide demonstrations that will be held in opposition to the changes and hope that although I am only one more person, a collective effort will make a difference, no matter how small.
I will update you after and tell you how it went! And for your own striking vocabulary, the word for strike in Basque is greba and in Spanish it's huelga. So, I'm off to go get my strike-greba-huelga on with a march and demonstration.