General strike of metal sector in Cadiz on 13 June. Interview with strike leader, Antonio Muñoz
On 18 May, 2 workers, Joe Daniel and Jose Luis, 31 and 46 years old respectively, were killed at work in the bay of Cadiz (a major hub of the metal industry in southern Spain). They both worked for EQUIMANSUR (EQM), an auxiliary company to state-owned ship building firm, Navantia. In the workshop, a crane was moving an access door to a ship, which fell on top of them. Despite the shock which their deaths produced among the workforce in the sector, the reaction has been an example of dignity and working class struggle.
Here we interview one of the organisers of the actions underway, including the general strike of the metal industry on 13 June, Antonio Muñoz, a member of Izquierda Revolucionaria and of the Coordinating body for Metal workers in the bay of Cadiz (CPM).
EL MILITANTE (EM): what was the reaction of the workforce at the deaths of these 2 workers?
Antonio Muñoz (AM): Once we heard the news, all activity was paralysed in the ship building plant and thousands of workers, both from Navantia and its auxiliaries, marched to the gates of the workshop (where the deaths had taken place).
It is important to insist that these accidents, similar to the one that had taken place only days before in Ferrol (Galicia) which also claimed the life of a worker (Oscar, 45 years old) are not the result of mere accidents. They are a direct product of precariousness in work, the intense pace of work, and the lack of effective security measures, with the aim of reducing costs.
Precariousness does not only affect our pockets, but also our health, our lives and our families. Workplace deaths are growing throughout the Spanish state as a direct consequence of the increased exploitation of workers.
The figures for the province of Cadiz alone speak for themselves: 9 people dies at work in 2017, 3 more than the previous year. There were also 108 grave accidents compared with 84 in 2016. This is the result of the labour reforms of the PP and PSOE and of the policy of social peace defended by the leaders of CCOO and UGT.
EM.- What measures have you defended to reverse this situation?
AM.- Of course. We don’t want mere testimonial actions to appease our rage. Our goal is to organise a struggle to achieve real change to our working conditions.
On Monday 21 May at 5.30am we held an assembly of over 2,000 workers at the gates of Navantia plant, called by the CPM. The proposals we made from the CPM, to hold a 24-hour general strike for that same day in all metal plants, and to build for a general strike of the whole bay of Cadiz in the coming weeks, were approved by the vast majority in this assembly.
The strike on 21 May, calle dby the CPM with the backing of the Cadiz bay Trade Union Front, was backed by the majority in all auxiliary companies and paralysed the activity of Navantia. The strike also spread to San Fernando Navantia plant when word arrived.
EM: What are the next steps you propose for the struggle?
AM: We are preparing a general strike of the whole bay, organising assemblies in all the workplaces. Assemblies in Puerto Real, San Fernando and
Cadiz have been massively attended, and workers have been near-unanimous in favour of the strike. Moreover, we are receiving many messages of support from Navantia workers everywhere. The strike will take place on 13 June, and we have also called a march for the evening on the same day so that all of the population can participate in the struggle.
EM: As well as being a leader of the CPM, you are also a CCOO union shop steward. What has been the attitude of the leadership of the union to these actions and to the general strike on 13 June?
AM: The attitude of the CCOO and UGT leaders is really terrible. When we organised assemblies and a strike immediately following the deaths, the provincial secretaries of CCOO and UGT accused us in the press of playing with the misery of the workforce in an irresponsible manner.
The big union leaders have said what the bosses do not dare to say! This is another episode in the close relationship with the CCOO and UGT leaders enjoy with the bosses and Navantia management in the bay of Cadiz. And as they have been unable to win support for these positions among the union rank and file, they try to impose them via an anti-democratic internal regime which furiously persecutes all those who oppose this outrageous policy.
In my case, they have to all intents and purposes expelled me from CCOO without having given me the opportunity to defend myself. All the appeals which I have made to the union have been dismissed, which has obliged me to turn to the legal system to fight for my democratic right to reinstatement. I will be in court on 6 June.
This attitude of the union leaders, which is not new, has led to the authority of CCOO and the UGT among millions of workers being at its lowest ebb ever. If these unions which we have built to fight for our rights, instead of organising a struggle, continue to operate like bosses in the comfortable world of the boardrooms, we will have to build new instruments to fight for the rights we have lost, and win new ones. The general strike in the bay of Cadiz will be a strong fist on the table from the woreking class and an important step in building a struggle to end precariousness and super-exploitation.
Our experience shows that we cannot merely wait for the leaders of CCOO and UGT to retake the road of serious struggle. We must ourselves impose a new path of struggle through mobilisation, as we are doing in Cadiz, and as the new inspirational pensioners’ movement is also showing.