Hundreds of government workers in the cleaning and gardening services of Madrid held a protest tonight in Puerta del Sol that included bonfires, firecrackers, and trash being thrown around the plaza.
The protest came ahead of an indefinite strike planned by workers in the “Limpieza” service that is set to begin at midnight on Nov. 5.
The workers are protesting a recent decision by the Madrid government that effectively lays off more than 1,100 of the city’s 6,000 gardening and street cleaning laborers. Moreover, in the contract negotiations between the government and the four staffing agencies for the Limpieza, the most recent offer would reduce Limpieza workers’ wages by more than 40 percent.
The Limpieza protest comes one week after a strike by the regional Cercanías train service workers in Madrid and two weeks after large nationwide strikes and demonstrations protesting education austerity measures.
Walking around the plaza, I saw hundreds of people tearing up paper and throwing heaps of trash into the air and around the plaza. I saw three or four bonfires that protestors had started with that trash and some Limpieza uniforms. I also heard more than a few firecrackers go off within the plaza, and the majority of the protestors were wearing Limpieza uniforms. There were, of course, the usual chants, marches, and megaphones present at all protest demonstrations.
Even Spaniards say that the recent abundance of protests in Madrid is more than normal. However, Spain’s been dealing with a heavier economic crisis than most of the world going back to the global recession of 2008; national unemployment still stands at 26 percent, and youth unemployment is at a whopping 54 percent. They’ve been instilling austerity measures for years now, but nothing seems to work.
I honestly don’t know what else the country can do to get out of this economic rut, and in this light, what else are the people supposed to do but speak out for their ever-debilitating situations?