Ana and Carmen are friends and co-workers at a cleaning company. They have noticed increases in the shopping basket, in electricity, in gas. “In everything, except salary,” they say, that this year nothing has gone up. Erica runs a hairdressing supply store. Last year she paid about 150 euros for electricity. Last month, the bill came to 400. Also, she drives to work and filling the tank costs her twice as much. José Ignacio and Soledad are pensioners. “A purchase that used to cost you 30 euros, now it’s 50,” they lament.
The European Commission leaves the decision to intervene in the market in the face of the energy crisis in the hands of EU leaders
Their cases were recounted this Wednesday, in conversation with elDiario.es, while they went up Atocha Street, in Madrid, in a demonstration called by the majority unions, UGT and Workers’ Commissions, which according to the organizers have been attended by between 4,000 and 5,000 people and that has been replicated in 57 other cities throughout the country to protest “the deterioration of the living conditions of families and workers and consumers, of the productive fabric, and of the citizenry as a whole” which is, they say , “very palpable”. The consumer association FACUA, the self-employed association UPTA and UATAE and the State Confederation of Neighborhood Associations (CEAV) have also joined the call.
“We are not going to resign ourselves to the fact that this crisis is paid for by the workers”, affirmed the general secretary of the CCOO, Unai Sordo, at the beginning of the march in Madrid. Both unions have demanded from the European Union, the Government and employers measures to limit the rise in electricity prices, social policies for the most vulnerable groups and that the purchasing power of workers be maintained, if not now because of inflation, with a clear income agreement that adjusts salaries in two or three years.
In the manifesto, the organizers demand “to act quickly” in the face of prospects that “are not good.” “Spanish society lives with deep concern and great discomfort the runaway escalation of prices that we have suffered in our country for months,” they point out. “Society as a whole is suffering from this situation, but it is the most vulnerable population, the one that does not make ends meet or does so with difficulty, who suffers from it in the cruelest way,” they add.
In the month of February, the consumer price index stood at 7.6% year-on-year, the highest rate since 1986. But in addition, food rose 5.6% and other services and essential goods, such as housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels shot up to 12.8% compared to the same month of 2021. Some increases that are more noticeable by the poorest people, who are the ones who spend the most money on basic goods and services respect to the rest.
Bread, milk or oil are among those basic goods, whose price is altered by the increase in the price of energy, fuel and, also, by strikes in transport, which have also caused companies in the food industry announce their intention to take advantage of the ERTES due to the impossibility of operating normally. A measure that also affects the pockets of workers. The fishing sector has also staged strikes in recent days because it is not profitable for them to go out to fish, or the transport of people, which has announced protests for next Sunday due to the price of diesel. The main agrarian organizations already took to the streets on Sunday, together with the producers of the fighting bull and the hunters, to demand measures against the rise in costs and environmental laws.
“The European Union has to take measures to put an end to this system of price regulation that is ruining the self-employed, some companies and the citizens of our country”, said the Secretary General of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez. This very morning he had already insisted on the need for both the Government and the European Union to take “urgent measures” in the face of an “unbearable situation that does not come from now” and also in the face of “a brutal crisis as a result of the invasion in Ukraine” . The Executive asked for “a social agreement to help those families who fall by the wayside” because of inflation, which also affects rental prices.
Sordo, on the prices of electricity and gas: “Europe faces a challenge similar to the one it faced when it had to decide whether to launch the recovery funds”
Sordo spoke along the same lines, stating that “Europe faces between tomorrow and the day after (because of the European Council this Thursday and Friday) a challenge similar to the one it faced when it had to decide whether to launch the funds for recovery” from the pandemic. In his opinion, the measures taken these days in Brussels to enable electricity prices to fall are “decisive for the future of Spain and the Union.” In addition, the Executive has demanded that he “deploy a broad catalog of measures for the most affected sectors and for the most vulnerable”, such as pensioners, those who live for rent or those who earn less than the minimum wage because they do not work full time. .
The claims of this day focused mainly on the prices of electricity and gas, but also address other axes that go beyond a change in the marginalist system of the price of electricity or the end of the extraordinary benefits of electricity companies or that investments be accelerated to reduce energy dependence. The unions and convening associations have demanded that citizens and families be protected, that productive sectors be supported, such as industry, livestock and agriculture and transport, and that the RED mechanism against layoffs. In addition, they demand that rental prices be controlled and that, for example, the rise in the CPI be separated from the renewal of contracts.
In an interview on TVE, Álvarez tried to separate these measures from a general reduction in taxes. He was in favor, yes, of revising the tax on hydrocarbons, but he also opted for controlling prices and limiting benefits to electricity companies. The First Vice President of the Government and Minister of the Economy, Nadia Calviño, also agreed that “there is no margin” to lower electricity taxes further and assured that the current situation “will not be fixed” with “miraculous solutions”. In the Government, they trust the new package of measures to what comes out of the European Council meeting this Thursday. Specifically, the Executive hopes to be able to put a cap on the price of gas and affirms that it is fighting to separate this from that of electricity. While the Ministry of Transport has advanced the meetings with the National Committee for Road Transport (CNC) to that same day. “We will be there for as long as it takes to reach an agreement,” said the head of the portfolio, Raquel Sánchez.
But some of the people who came out to demonstrate this Wednesday do see taxes as an enemy to defeat. “Let them remove the taxes”, requested Erica, who also demanded “they regulate” the prices. “It is not normal for the power companies to come out now saying that they have had I don’t know how many millions of benefits,” she protested, while demanding that the Government speed up the measures that they plan to implement on the 29th, but which are not yet known. “For other things, they do take out the decree from one day to the next,” she insisted.
“We are very bad. They are taking away our salary based on taxes. It’s all up in the clouds. The shopping basket is rising, Health is at rock bottom and Education is wanted to be charged”, José Ignacio made a broader reading, who also assured that the strike of carriers is “a problem of them with their companies” but that “has a great impact” on the rest of the population.
Regarding the possibility of an agreement this Thursday between the Government and the carriers, Sordo has indicated that “it would be good that once measures have been put on the table and it seems that a sane one can be articulated, this would see the light as soon as possible and return to normality in supply and transport because it is evident that this is having an impact on other sectors”. However, the secretary general of CCOO has recalled that in these meetings, “the representation of salaried workers is lacking.”
“The Government has to put all the elements it has on the table and carriers have to be fully aware that the country cannot withstand this situation we are in”
For his part, Álvarez has indicated that “the Government has to put all the elements it has on the table” and that “transporters have to be fully aware that the country cannot withstand this situation we are in.” “The sum of these two questions would have to give an agreement in itself”, he has assured before demanding that the “violence” that is taking place “in this lockout” ends.
From the employers, they have demanded from the unions “salaries that are in accordance with the current moment in which we live”. “We need wages not to lose purchasing power. In this sense, it is necessary that the collective bargaining agreement allows us to precisely maintain wages, go to an agreement that gives stability and tranquility to the country and at the same time that allows families to continue maintaining their standard of living”, Álvarez insisted. Sordo, for his part, has indicated that if the Government and CEOE want an income pact, it must be clear what each party is going to contribute. “Salaries have to grow”, he has defended, “if it can’t be now, it has to be an agreement for two or three years, for when the CPI drops and the economy recovers”, he has said.
For her part, the general secretary of UATAE, María José Landaburu, has claimed that “the social majority of this country is telling the Government and Europe that they have to choose between us and the oligopolies”, referring to those in energy, to who has asked to “stop their feet”. “It is essential that today it is clear that we are together to demand fair, fast and forceful measures”, the president of UPTA, Eduardo Abad, has also requested, who has demanded that the effort of this crisis not fall only on the working class and the self-employed. .
FACUA’s spokesman, Ignacio Tudela, has demanded that the “disproportionate” profits of large companies be intervened in order to put an end to the “exorbitant” escalation of prices. To do this, he has asked for a “strong” response. Meanwhile, Manuel Osuna, from CEAV, has insisted that the crisis not be paid by the neighbors and regarding the rise in prices, he has stated: “The Government must be told ‘enough is enough’ and that it begin to regulate”