Spain’s Miners Strike Against Austerity Measures, Subsidy Cuts

William Lineberry

Spanish miners celebrate after clashing against riot police on June 19, 2012 in Cinera, Spain. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

As Spain faces much economic uncertainty due to risky speculation from bankers within the country, the government announced last month that it will cut subsidies to the country’s mining industry by more than half to assuage the current deficit. In response to the planned cuts in subsidies, thousands of miners in the northern provinces of Asturias and Leon called an indefinite strike that began at the end of May. Miners fear the planned 63 percent cut in mining subsidies by Spain’s conservative lead government will leave around 30,000 miners unemployed, no future jobs for younger generations and a region bereft of the industry it was built around. The total subsidies from the government will fall from around €300 million to €110 million, or $375 million to $110 million.

Spain has recently received a €100 billion bailout for its banks and under new austerity measures has sought to cut government spending and reduce the current deficit in the country. The planned cuts in mining subsidies are said to reduce the deficit by €190 million.

This past Monday, miners from multiple areas in Spain were part of a general strike in solidarity with the miners in the North. Miners are now planning a march to begin this week from their northern provinces to Madrid to protest the cuts to their industry and to seek negotiation with the government.

Nearly 8,000 miners from 40 coal mines are currently on strike, and union officials have reported that there is 100 percent participation in the strike among miners in the region. Some are staging sit-ins and occupying the city square, while others have chosen to strike below ground. The below ground strike has been said to be highly dangerous and is being used as an attempt to speed up the process of negotiation with the government. While on strike, many miners have had direct confrontation with police; some have resulted in the firing of weapons on both sides and injuries. Last week, seven individuals (four police and three journalists) were injured after police attempted to remove a blockade of burning tires created by the miners. Several roads have been blocked by the miners, along with two rail lines.

Miners claim that police have provoked them and distorted their images in the media as violent and threating to all. Police forces quickly began using force against us. We are marching to defend our rights – we aren’t delinquents, but they have been treating us as such,” one miner told a news service in France. After 19 days of striking, we are exhausted, and morale is very low. Miners are no longer bringing in money, but living expenses are the same – we have to keep sending our kids to school and putting food on the table. This situation will certainly contribute to the movement’s radicalization.”

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