The protesters gathered at the Plaza Mayor in the heart of Madrid on Thursday, November 3, 2022, behind a large banner that read: “Wages or Conflict”. THOMAS COEX / AFP
Thousands of people demonstrated in Madrid on Thursday 3 November to call for the two main unions to demand wage increases in the face of inflation and threatened to continue the mobilization over a lack of agreement with employers.
The demonstrators – 25,000 according to the government delegation (the equivalent of a prefecture) in Madrid – had followed the call of the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) and the General Union of Workers (UGT). They gathered at several locations in the capital before converging in the Plaza Mayor in the heart of the city behind a large banner that read: “Salary or Conflict”.
The staff “came from all over Spain with a very clear motto: either wages will rise or conflicts in the workplace will increase exponentially in our country over the next year,” said Unai Sordo, Secretary General of the CCOOs. A message from the President of the UGT, Pepe Alvarez, who asked employers to guarantee the maintenance of workers’ “purchasing power”. “Wealth” must be better “distributed” and “not remain in the hands of a few,” he said.
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Inflation reached 7.3% yoy in October
Protesters denounced the erosion of their purchasing power after inflation hit 7.3% over a year in October. This is a sharp drop from the July peak (10.8%), but still very high due to rising energy and food prices. “Wages are still super low,” while prices of essential products have skyrocketed, laments Maria Luisa Ortega, a service-sector worker. For the 57-year-old, it was necessary to “align salaries with inflation”.
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This demonstration takes place while the Spanish government is negotiating with workers’ unions and employers’ associations for a new minimum wage increase (SMI), currently 1,000 euros gross per month over fourteen months. The far-left Podemos party, an ally of Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party within the governing coalition, is campaigning for a large increase in this minimum wage, of the order of 10%, to take account of inflation. Employers, concerned about the companies’ cash flow, are opposed to an increase.
Mr Sanchez’s government has committed to raising the minimum wage to 60% of the average wage by the end of the legislature in December 2023, in a bid to bring Spain’s minimum wage in line with its European neighbours.
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