Unions call strike in coal-mining industry

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In June 1999, Spanish unions called a strike to demand the implementation of the 1998-2005 coal mining plan, signed in July 1997. The strike received massive support among the 20,000 coal miners, but the government criticised the unions for exaggerating the problems.

The CC.OO and UGT trade union federations responsible for the coal-mining sector - FIA-UGT and FMM-CC.OO- called a strike on 1 and 2 June 1999 following several unsuccessful attempts to make the Ministry of Industry correct what they claimed were serious delays and non-fulfilment of Spain's 1998-2000 coal mining plan, signed in July 1997 (ES9802245F). The strike received a high level of support among the 20,000 coal miners. The unions claim that:

  • the agreement to provide four redeployments for every 11 workers accepting early retirement, which was intended to stop or delay falling levels of employment in the sector, is not being fulfilled. It is demanded that the Ministry bring pressure on the companies concerned to carry out this measure;
  • with regard to early retirement, the unions claim that two points in the plan have not been fulfilled - the agreed number of early retirements are not being carried out at the appropriate time, and subsequently the delay until the early retirement pension is actually received is excessively long;
  • rules on the length of service of workers who are considered surplus under the plan and are redeployed to other companies are not being respected; and
  • the agreed annual investment of ESP 2 billion to improve safety in mining is not being spent

The trade unions have used two forms of pressure to obtain their demands. The first was the 48-hour strike, which was conducted peacefully without repercussions outside the mines, though in the past the miners have used this strategy with greater forcefulness. The second was a rally of 2,000 delegates and mining union leaders outside the Ministry of Industry in Madrid, intended to make the public aware of the gravity of the situation.

The response of the government - which was the target of the protests even though some of the miners work in private mines - was to denounce the strike as a political measure because it was held in the middle of the municipal and European Parliament election campaign. It also stated that the trade unions had exaggerated their demands because there were only slight delays to the plan. Over the next few weeks the effectiveness of the protests can be assessed according to whether or not any changes are made.

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