On Wednesday, March 23, working class sections in Spain, under the leadership of various trade unions, marched in major cities across the country protesting the soaring cost of living crisis. Trade unions including Workers Commissions (CCOO), General Union of Workers (UGT) and the UPTA, along with political parties including the Communist Workers Party of Spain (PCTE), participated in the protest demonstrations and demanded concrete measures from the government to contain the rising prices of energy and food, protect employment, freeze rents and stop the deterioration of living conditions. The General Confederation of Labor (CGT) of France and the General Labor Federation of Belgium (FGTB/ABVV) also expressed solidarity with the protesters.
Spain is witnessing a sharp increase in food and energy prices. The ongoing war in Ukraine has resulted in skyrocketing oil prices across Europe, including in Spain which was already witnessing high inflation, reportedly the highest in the last three decades. According to reports, the price of electricity in Spain on March 23 was EUR 212.44 (USD 233.54) per megawatt hour (MWh), 3% higher than on February 24, and over three times the rate one year ago, which was EUR 64.47 (USD 70.87). While Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has promised tax cuts to sectors affected by the rise in energy prices and an increase in minimum wage, working class sections and lower income families across the country are finding it hard to make ends meet. Major protests against the cost of living crisis are taking place across Europe, including in the UK, Belgium and Albania.
While addressing the workers mobilization in Madrid on Wednesday, Pepe Álvarez from the leadership of the UGT demanded the state to make a change in the pricing system for electricity. He said that instead of making tax cuts, the government must put an end to the exploitative profiteering of electricity and hydrocarbon companies and adopt measures against speculation in commodity prices. In this regard, he also called on the European Union (EU) to adopt policies to control energy prices or allow member states to do so.
CCOO secretary general Unai Sordo called on the government to deploy a wide range of measures to support economic sectors that are most impacted by the increase in prices, without forgetting the most vulnerable groups that have also been impacted by this crisis.
“In Spain, rents cannot continue to be revalued with this inflation. There are several billion people with salaries and with very vulnerable and low incomes, people who earn less than the Minimum Interprofessional Wage (SMI), because they work part-time, and people with hardly any resources who require help to be able to face essential expenses such as electricity or the shopping basket,” Sordo said.