Asturian miners' strike of 2012

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The 2012 Asturian miners' strike was an industrial dispute involving more than 8,000 coal miners in the Spanish autonomous community of Asturias.[1]

Background[edit]

Coal mining has played a part in the local economy of the provinces of Asturias and León since the Roman era.[2] The region also has a history of militancy: an uprising led by miners took place in 1934 but was crushed by General Franco;[1] and miners engaged in protests against privatisation and industrial restructuring in the 1980s and 1990s.[3]

In order to comply with European Union regulations requiring Spain to reduce its fiscal deficit, in 2012 the Spanish government announced plans to reduce subsidies for 40 mines from 300 million to €110 million.[1][4] The Unión General de Trabajadores, Spain's largest trade union said such a reduction would lead "to the shutdown of coal mining and the abandonment of the mining districts to their fate."[5] Miners want the subsidies to continue until 2018, and argue that Spain's limited energy resources mean it must keep the mines open in order to protect itself against future shocks in the energy market.[6]

Dispute[edit]

Miners began their strike in late May 2012.[7] The strike has included attacks on police and offices of the ruling People's Party.[4] Miners attacked police with rockets, stones, nuts and bolts, and blocked up to 60 roads a day[6] including 16 main roads and motorways and two railway lines. Miners also occupied a mineshaft[1] and erected barricades made from burning tyres. The Civil Guard[3] and riot police used tear gas,[4] baton charges[4] and rubber bullets.[8] In June 2012, a rail passenger was injured when the train on which he was travelling collided with tree trunks placed on the tracks.[4][5]

On 15 June, clashes were reported by the Ministry of the Interior to have resulted in seven injuries, two of them serious, comprising four police officers and three journalists. The Interior Ministry said the injuries took place when police tried to remove roadblocks of burning tires and came under attack from missiles fired by miners.[9] On 5 July, a child aged five and a woman were injured by stray missiles during violence between miners using home-made rocket launchers and police using rubber bullets, while miners using rockets caused burns to two policemen on 6 July.[10]

The strike has overlapped with a transport workers' strike in Asturias and León.[3] A general strike was held on 18 June in Asturias, León, Galicia and Aragon.[6]

March to Madrid and demonstration[edit]

Demonstration in support of the strike in Mieres, Asturias in June 2012

In June, a group of miners embarked on a march to Madrid.[11] Around 240 miners were involved the 20-day journey,[12] which converged in the capital on 10 July.[13] As the miners neared the Puerta del Sol, the arrival of supporters swelled their numbers to thousands for a night protest lit by the lights on their hard hats.[14]

On 11 July, miners and trade unionists were met by thousands of supporters, and marched again through the centre of Madrid,[15] towards the Ministry of Industry.[16] In addition to the miners who had marched, thousands more travelled on buses from Asturias, León, Aragon and Puertollano.[17] The demonstration saw police charges, rubber bullets, and demonstrators throwing fireworks, bottles and stones at police.[16] 76 people were injured[17] and six protesters were hospitalised.[18] Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spent the morning announcing further austerity measures.[16]

Response[edit]

The government of Asturias condemned the violence but called on the national government to revise its plans to cut subsidies.[19] A spokesperson for the regional government said president Javier Fernández Fernández had requested a meeting with industry minister José Manuel Soria.[4]

The local branch of the Workers' Commissions denounced the violence, which it said was "the exception and should not be repeated".[6] However the Communist Party of Spain declared its support for the actions.[20]

In June 2012, 10,000 miners' supporters marched in Madrid, resulting in clashes with police. Miners in Wales have also offered their support to the Spanish strikers.[1] At a solidarity march for men trapped in mines in León, also in June 2012, marchers wore T-shirts reading "S.O.S. Mining in danger of extinction."[5] Supporters also established a protest camp in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias.[1]

Return to work[edit]

The unions told their members to return to work on 3 August 2012, with no compromise having been reached, but said they would soon announce further industrial action.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Moloney, Mark (11 June 2012). "8,000 Spanish miners strike against cuts". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Morenatti, Emilio; Heckle, Harold (June 12, 2012). "Striking miners in north Spain use violent tactics". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Carr, Matthew (12 June 2012). "Spain bailout: miners of Asturias rise up against austerity". The Week. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Call to end miners' strike in Spain after attacks". BBC. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "1 Hurt in Spanish miners' protest". Fox News Latino. June 14, 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d Tremlett, Giles (19 June 2012). "Spanish miners to march on Madrid over subsidy cuts". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "Madrid puts on a show of solidarity for striking miners". Socialist Worker. 10 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Spain: Miner protest intensifies". Euronews. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "7 injured as Spanish miners clash with police". Fox News. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "Two more hurt in Spain mine clashes: authorities". Agence France-Presse. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  11. ^ "Spanish coal miners march to protest cuts in aid to sector". Fox News. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  12. ^ "Spain's miners march on Madrid over subsidy cuts". BBC. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Woolls, Daniel (10 July 2012). "Spanish Miners Converging on Madrid for Protests". ABC News. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  14. ^ "Spanish miners stage night protest against austerity cuts". The Daily Telegraph. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Spanish miners clash with riot police in Madrid". The Daily Telegraph. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  16. ^ a b c "Eurozone crisis: Spain announces budget cuts amid protests". BBC. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Tremlett, Giles (11 July 2012). "Spanish coal miners bring message of defiance to Madrid". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  18. ^ "Spanish miners dig in for prolonged protest". Al Jazeera English. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  19. ^ "Striking Spanish miners clash with police in Asturias". BBC. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Crónica de la Brigada de Solidaridad del PCE de Paterna al Pozo Candin (Langreo)". laRepublica.es (in Spanish). 9 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  21. ^ Baratti, Gianluca (3 August 2012). "Spanish coal unions order return to work after two-month strike". Platts. Retrieved 7 July 2013.