Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Leaders of both mainstream unions in the Spanish state recently concluded an agreement with the employers of a 4% rise in their members’ wages in 2023 and of 3% for 2024 and 2025.

The deal is effectively a pay cut even on on average inflation and even worse on weekly inflation yet the leader of UGT celebrated the result.

Average inflation in the Spanish state, calculated on a wide range of products and services, was 8.83% in 2022 and is currently projected at 4.3%-4.87%. However the weekly inflation rate in necessities such as food, power, housing etc. as we know always runs substantially higher.

The trade unions concerned are the CCOO (Comisiones Obreras, founded during the Franco era by the Communist Party but no longer controlled by them) and the UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores, linked to the PSOE, Spanish social-democratic party currently in Government).

Except in the southern Basque Country and in Galicia, and in some particular workplaces in the Spanish State, the CCOO and UGT are by far in the majority in members and therefore in representatives (shop stewards, convenors).

Because the CCOO and UGT are also Spanish unionist, i.e opposed to independence for nations and regions within the Spanish state’s territory, they have been rejected in the Basque Country, where Basque unions ELA and LAB are in the majority, along with some smaller ones.

ELA is linked to the Basque Nationalist Party PNV, while LAB is controlled by EH Bildu, main party of the Basque patriotic Left. In Galicia too, the main trade union is Confederación Intesindical Gallega (CIG) and also in favour of independence for Galiza.

In Catalonia and Asturias, CCOO and UGT are by far in the majority though in Catalonia1, Intersindical CSC, which supports Catalan independence, is making progress. However, Intersindical there and in Galiza2 are ‘unions of class’ which the Basque unions are not.

L-R: Presidents of Employer Federations Cepyme Gerardo Cuerva and CEOE Antonio Garmendia with General Secretaries of CCOO and UGT Unai Sordo and Pepe Álvarez (Photo cred: Gabriel Luengas, Europa Press)

President , Antonio Garamendi; Gen Secs CCOO Unai Sordo & UGT, Pepe Álvarez May 2023 Gabriel Lluengas Europa Press

A ‘union of class’ maintains a philosophy of militant struggle and does not recruit from repressive organisations such as police and prison warders or from management levels.

Trade unions were established at enormous sacrifice by working people in strikes and other actions, suffering deprivation, physical attack by police, army and other hired goons, losing liberty in jail and penal colonies and often enough shot dead on the street or executed by the State.

Though by themselves trade unions can never lead to socialism, their struggles have advanced the economic and social conditions of working people in society. But as unions became an accepted part of capitalist society, they became institutionalised.

Their leaders and employees became more committed to the institution of the union than to its original purpose and perceived their role as being exercised within the capitalist status quo, their political allegiances generally reformist.

CCOO section with hospitality sector workers’ banner, Mayday parade, Madrid 2023 (Photo credit: Patricia Cinta, Christian Monitor)

Throughout most of the world, union hierarchies are betraying even the basic economic needs of their members, to say nothing of their social and political needs. Furthermore they often act as police, restraining what they perceive as too radical confrontations.

Yet it is impossible to conceive of a social revolution without mass action by workers and difficult to imagine that without mass workers’ organisation. In the absence of a revolutionary union of those dimensions, a unified militant grass-roots trade union movement is sorely needed.



1And in Paisos Catalans (Catalan countries) of Valencia and the Balearic Islands in the Spanish state and Pau in the French state.

2And in Canarias, the Canary Islands


Inflation in Spain – Statistics & Facts | Statista


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