Emilio is Secretary for the Hotel, Tourism and International Relations Sector of
the UGT Federation-Commerce, and Hotels-Tourism and Gambling Establishments in
Spain. This broadly-experienced union leader, and quite an expert on issues and
alternatives pertaining to hotel and tourism industry, analyzes the harsh facts
of Spain’s situation today and possible ways out of it.
-What is your opinion on the latest demonstration held last Saturday?
-It was quite positive, and despite the fact that it was convoked and led by
the UGT and Comisiones Obreras numerous organizations and entities
from civil society also participated in it.
This means that this meeting included all those who, in one way or another,
have been affected by the cutbacks defined by the party currently in the
government, the Partido Popular (PP).
-It seems that many voters who supported the PP in the elections would not be
willing to vote them again today…
-Exactly, one of the issues gearing the movement and the ultimate pursuit is
to promote a referendum for the Spanish people to have the chance to
democratically vote something they had no say in before, because a fraud was
committed on democracy.
currently expressing our opposition to this government which is responsible for
the greatest cutbacks to social and labor rights, while it also dismantles
Spain’s welfare state.
The PP party ran for the past elections based on a
government program that was totally false. And not only have they failed to
apply it, they have also oriented it in a totally opposite direction.
As a consequence, the Spanish people are opposing this and most certainly, as
you say, a great portion of the voters who supported the Popular Party then
wouldn’t even dream of voting them again now
has it that they are imposing cutbacks of all kinds, some not only affecting
workers in Spain but also the immigrant population. Could this be compared to
the circumstances lived during the times of dictator Franco, or would that be
overstating the situation?
it wouldn’t. In fact that is exactly the case. What the PP has been doing
is take advantage of the crisis, which exists and is undeniable, to impose their
ideology and their interpretation of State and relations with society, all of
which imply the risk of taking Spain back to the regime of Franco.
-Some opinions consider that the battle of
unions is both correct and positive, but the time of reaction is seen as
arriving late. How do you see it?
-That is totally fallacious and a mistaken interpretation of reality, when
Spanish unions have been on the move for years. That is the argument that the
right has been put forward, pretending to be the victim here. However it should
be recalled that we also had strikes during the times when Zapatero was
UGT has expressed its opposition against all governments, regardless of
their sign, whenever they attacked the working class or society as a whole. And
this is not just my view of reality; there is history to prove it.
We are currently expressing our opposition to this government which is
responsible for the greatest cutbacks to social and labor rights, while it also
dismantles Spain’s welfare state.
existing proposal to overcome this crisis is to implement a referendum…
-Yes, that legal precept would allow Spanish people to have a say in a specific
issue. It is also true that the only one entitled to convoke such referendum is
the government. So these demonstrations by the UGT and the CCOO
are intended to act as a claim from the people for the authorities currently in
charge to have no other alternative than resorting to that possibility that the
constitution allows for.
And I insist on saying that the government is imposing a program that was
forged, and concealed from the population.
-In what concerns Hotels and
Tourism, what is the current situation of workers in that sector?
-The PP party passed a bill on labor reform that brought along the
loss of rights for the working forces, mainly aimed at dismantling the
collective bargaining possibilities and other labor rights already exercised by
employees, all of which caused the general strike decided at the time.
Unfortunately, this reform has set the bases for employers to do as they
please in the labor market, where they can ignore Collective Bargaining
Agreements, dismiss workers without due cause, or modify salaries and working
conditions without limitations, among a number of other possibilities.
The purpose of said labor reform was to convey to employers further instruments
and entitlements, while depriving workers and their unions from what they have
accomplished in long years of battling.
I want to stress the fact that this government is totally contrary to democracy
and cannot withstand union organizations because it is clear that unions
legitimately represent the working class. The legislation sought by these
government authorities is aimed at dismantling Spain’s labor unions. That is the
present state of things, which we are determined to fight against.
Unfortunately, this reform has set the bases for employers to do as they please
in the labor market, where they can ignore Collective Bargaining Agreements,
dismiss workers without due cause, or modify salaries and working conditions
-Has tourism been affected by the European crisis?
-Actually not. Figures that were made public today in that sense indicate
that 8 million tourists visited Spain last July.
The information available shows that the number of tourists from abroad is on
the rise. However, internal tourism is decreasing as a result of the crisis.
The main countries of origin of tourists travelling to Spain are
Germany, France and Great Britain, where the situation
seems to be improving in all cases.
-What would be the way out of this crisis?
-By seeking a consensus within society, with lots of dialogue and
negotiations, and by promoting negotiations between companies and workers,
provided that the measures implemented affect not only the most disadvantaged
sectors of society.
And mostly by leaving behind the conditions imposed by the markets that call for
the neo-liberal politics that have totally failed and have led to the situation
we have today. But most of all what is necessary to overcome this is the
unrelenting resistance of the population.
-And that implies a high degree of opposition…
-Unions are aware of the fact the working class is being subjected to close
scrutiny and that they are an instrument to be applied in the resistance
activities, meant for struggling and battling against an evidently unfair
government taking it out on those who are not at all responsible for the crisis.
We will not give up our fight battle. The UGT is a long-standing union
organization known for its battles, and will continue to be so, despite the
intentions of Mr. Mariano Rajoy’s government to promote and generate
decree-laws aimed at doing away with unions in the country. This gentleman is
well aware that we will be the ones winning this battle in the end.