A proud day


Yesterday was the UN International Day to recognise Human Rights.

And of course, we all know that the ILO Convention 87 and UN Covenant on Social, Political and Economic Rights recognise the right of workers to collectively withhold their labour as a fundamental right, one which balances that to private property in the capitalist system.

So, call it coincidence, but eight courageous Spanish trade unionists, Airbus employees near Madrid, were to appear in court where the prosecution has requested eight years jail terms for each of them under an outdated piece of legislation dating back to the Franco dictatorship (it prohibits preventing access to the workplace to those wishing to work).

Both the previous and the present Ministers of Labour recognise that this particular piece of legislation is no longer pertinent and in fact flies in the face of the Constitutional right to strike.

Briefly, the Airbus workers carried out a lawful strike with pickets. The police decided to (physically) charge and assault the strikers in a confined area.

One police officer even shot his gun in the air repeatedly. When the bullets were displayed at a press conference, the police proceeded to look for scapegoats, centering on trade union leaders which they identified from pictures they found in the factory and from the names of injured workers who had gone to the workplace infirmary for treatment.

So here’s the irony of the situation. Airbus has written the union that they have no issue with the actions of their workers, recognising their right to strike. No one has come forward suggesting they were prevented from going to work or somehow intimidated.

The prosecution tried in a last minute mediation to offer reduced penalties against an admission by the eight trade unionists against an admission of guilt, but what guilt!

By now, like me, you are asking yourself why then this travesty of justice.

There is only one possible answer : the Spanish authorities have decided to criminalise dissent and they are targeting the unions to get their repressive message across.

I was privileged today to bring a message of solidarity on behalf of the international trade union movement to these workers and their union.

I know workers in this sector well. I started my working and trade union life in an airplane factory. I know the pride and honour they bring to their work as well as to their commitment to justice and solidarity, and their militancy.

A proud day indeed!