Vigo: joint struggle of the unemployed and shipyard workers

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Thanks to a contribution by a comrade on the 3rd Febrary on the comments section of our Spanish language site, we have learnt about the joint struggle of unemployed and shipyard workers in Vigo in Spain.

We want to thank the comrade for his contribution and to express our agreement with the conclusion that he draws "Only the united struggle of all the unemployed and workers, through joint assembles and demonstrations can we win victory. Greetings to the workers and unemployed of the navel dockyards in Vigo. And workers and unemployed of the world, take up the example of the Vigo shipyards: unity, solidarity, all together we can overcome the capitalist world". In the same way, another contribution to our comments section underlined that "the article on the struggle of the unemployed and workers of the Vigo naval shipyards are lessons we have to take up...workers and unemployed have united together in demonstrations that have stopped the whole shipyard. Take 5 minutes to read it and learn a lot more, greetings".

We have consulted the Europa Press news agency, El Faro de Vigo and La Voz de Galicia to find out more[1], and despite the limitations due to the lack of information about the workers' actions, we can conclude that our contributors are correct to call our attention to the struggles that are taking place in Vigo.

In Vigo there are 60,000 unemployed and in 2009 8000 jobs were lost in the engineering sector alone. Workers' indignation and concern faced with an increasingly difficult future is widespread. In the naval dockyards there have been lay-offs resulting from an agreement between the unions and bosses at Bolsa, which talks about the possibility of some posts in the future.

Those laid off at la Bolsa - some 700- have reacted angrily to the fact that they are to be replaced by foreign workers on temporary contacts with lower pay and terrible conditions. Thus, for example, according to a spokesman for the unemployed "there are workers sleeping in car parks in cars and they can only eat one sandwich a day".

This was the spark that lit the fuse of the struggle. The comrades have made it clear that these struggles are not against the contracted foreign workers. Thus, a spokesman insisted that "we don't have any problems with foreign workers being contracted as long as the Pontevedra agreement is kept to".

Despite this, the media immediately played the card that the workers are xenophobic. For example, El Faro de Vigo titled the article dealing with the struggle "Unemployed metal workers oppose the employment of foreigners" which is a scandalous lie since it is the same unemployed workers who have denounced the bosses' manoeuvre that "took on cheap labour in working conditions close to slavery".

The bourgeoisie is a Machiavellian and cynical class. It employs foreign workers at worse conditions than those born in the country. If the latter struggle against this practice, they are immediately accused of racism, xenophobia, "supporting the extreme right", nationalism etc. When in reality, the response of the workers is not against their class brothers but against them being shipped in under inferior working conditions which drive down everyone's working conditions. This was what we saw in Great Britain in the struggles of the construction workers on the oil refineries and power centres; the struggle concerned all workers, and the movement in the refineries and power stations began to confront nationalism. Likewise the struggle of the workers of the Sestao naval shipyards.

On the 3rd February, the unemployed went to the gate of the Barreras shipyard - the most important in the sector- with the intention of holding an assembly with the workers there. However, the gates were closed so they had to shout slogans, having brought a megaphone in order to explain their demands. In the end a majority of the workers left the yard and joined with the unemployed. According to the Europa Press "Five riot vans were deployed, armed with plastic bullets and riot shields; however eventually they had to retire to the Beiramar roundabout". The Europa Press piece continued "Finally the group formed by the unemployed and workers went off towards Bouza;, along the way they were joined by workers from others shipyards in the area -such as Cardama, Armon or Feire-As; work was stopped throughout the naval dockyards".

In this experience we have seen the expression of solidarity and unity between unemployed and employed comrades; common assemblies, street demonstrations used to make the struggle known to other workers; direct communication and contact with workers from other firms in order to win them over to the common struggle. As in Vigo in 2006, the workers took up the proletarian methods of struggle that have nothing to do with the corporatism and passivity of the unions.

On the 4th the struggle continued. At 10 in the morning, the unemployed assembled again outside the gate of Barreras. Again they united with their comrades inside the gates. Despite the presence of the riot police, they set off again in a demonstration. According to El Faro de Vigo, "yesterday's protest was watched by a strong police presence and there were tense moments, although finally there were no confrontations. The unemployed demonstrated in the area of the ship yards of Beiramar and Bouzas of Vigo, accompanied by workers from this sector, and promised to continue their mobilisation as long as the bosses do not join with them in solving the problems around the hiring of personnel".

We do not have any more news. However, we believe that these facts are significant of the militancy and consciousness of the workers, of the search for unity and solidarity faced with the blows dished out by Capital.

We want to draw the lessons from this movement and to express our active solidarity with those involved. The motivation for launching further struggles are not lacking: we have crossed the 4 million unemployed barrier; the government has announced the extension of the retirement age to 67, an increase in the time of paying contributions etc.

ICC 5/2/2010

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