Asturian miners' strike of 2012
Coal mining has played a part in the local economy of the provinces of Asturias and León since the Roman era. The region also has a history of militancy: an uprising led by miners took place in 1934 but was crushed by General Franco; and miners engaged in protests against privatisation and industrial restructuring in the 1980s and 1990s.
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. 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." 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.
Miners began their strike in late May 2012. The strike has included attacks on police and offices of the ruling People's Party. Miners attacked police with rockets, stones, nuts and bolts, and blocked up to 60 roads a day including 16 main roads and motorways and two railway lines. Miners also occupied a mineshaft and erected barricades made from burning tyres. The Civil Guard and riot police used tear gas, baton charges and rubber bullets. In June 2012, a rail passenger was injured when the train on which he was travelling collided with tree trunks placed on the tracks.
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. 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.
March to Madrid and demonstration
In June, a group of miners embarked on a march to Madrid. Around 240 miners were involved the 20-day journey, which converged in the capital on 10 July. 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.
On 11 July, miners and trade unionists were met by thousands of supporters, and marched again through the centre of Madrid, towards the Ministry of Industry. In addition to the miners who had marched, thousands more travelled on buses from Asturias, León, Aragon and Puertollano. The demonstration saw police charges, rubber bullets, and demonstrators throwing fireworks, bottles and stones at police. 76 people were injured and six protesters were hospitalised. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spent the morning announcing further austerity measures.
The government of Asturias condemned the violence but called on the national government to revise its plans to cut subsidies. A spokesperson for the regional government said president Javier Fernández Fernández had requested a meeting with industry minister José Manuel Soria.
The local branch of the Workers' Commissions denounced the violence, which it said was "the exception and should not be repeated". However the Communist Party of Spain declared its support for the actions.
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. 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." Supporters also established a protest camp in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias.
Return to work
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.
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