There is only one way to describe yesterdays general strike: a whopping failure.
Even amongst funcionarios, the cosseted civil servants who recently got a 5% pay cut, takeup ranged from 12% to just 24% in different parts of the Administration.
In the private sector, large unionised sectors (ie the car factories, the mines, etc) takeup with around 100%, but that was via the use of strong pickets and borderline intimidatory tactics.
In this area, for example, and I imagine the rest of ruralised Spain was the same, you wouldn’t have known that there was a general strike on at all. 99% of businesses were open, deliveres were made as normal (even the post!) and things ticked over nicely, although the center of Almería was paralysed for a while.
The government, rather cunningly, said that they would not dispute the unions figures of a “massive turnout” as it would only lead to further disputes, and refused to say what they thought of the strike. Corbacho, the labour Minister (who is about to make a run to Catalunya any day now and leave the whole sorry mess in someone else’s hands) smugly said that “the picture spoke for itself” and that “the government will not say anything to contradict the personal opinion every Spaniard has of the success of this general strike”.
Today the government confirmed that the 2011 budget will go before Congress, and that the unions have lost their chance to make input on it. Despite saying that they looked forwards to continual negotiations with the unions, the proposed labour modification law (which is what the strike was about) will also go to law without any further modifications.
Yes, there was a riot in Barcelona, but it doesn’t take much to get that lot riled. Must be the French influence.
The unions shot themselves in the foot before they even started. Everybody knows that Spain’s economic infrastructure and labour laws must be reformed, but the unions were unable to commit to a coherent alternative strategy. Like ZP’s reforms or hate them (me), the unions offered only stagnation and more of the same. In the last general strike, in 2002, ZP was at the front of the protestors in the Madrid march against the PP government, and the wave of fury that the unions cooked up stopped Aznar’s attempts to reform the Spanish labour structure.
This time, it didn’t even delay them.
It’s too soon to see if the unions have been broken, but they’ve been severly wounded, and by their own actions. ZP has, by his own admission, a second wave of reforms coming after this current one, but, today, it seems impossible that the unions will be able to mount a coherent defense – certainly not without a massive change in leadership, tactics and propaganda.