The degradation of women’s labor and social standing is a global feature of capitalism. In Barcelona, Catalonia, 60,000 women took to the streets for a one-day general strike called by Spanish union CGT on International Women’s Day, March 8. Women workers united across sectors to demand fair pay, an end to workplace discrimination, and migrant justice—particularly for the case of Spain’s domestic workers, more than half of whom are migrant women. In the latest installment of Workers of the World, Sato Díaz and María Artigas report from the streets of Barcelona. This video is part of a special Workers of the World series on the cost of living crisis in Europe.
Producers: Sato Díaz and María Artigas
Videographer and editor: María Artigas
Translator and narrator: Marina Céspedes
This story, with the support of the Bertha Foundation, is part of The Real News Network’s Workers of the World series, telling the stories of workers around the globe building collective power and redefining the future of work on their own terms.
Protesters: “Jails, CIES, raids and borders, this is how European wealth is built!”
Reporter: Tens of thousands of women across Catalonia took to the streets on International Women’s Day. The Spanish CGT union called for a general strike on this day that celebrates and honors the struggle of women around the world. Picket lines, marches and protests of all kinds took place throughout the day. One of the companies that manages social services for the Barcelona City Council saw its offices occupied by a group of its female workers.
María Muñoz: We are on strike today, because we are several services here. To begin with, some companies, such as Grupo Cinco, are paying salaries under the collective labor agreement to our female colleagues. Others are here because, for example, during our pregnancies, we have to work on the streets, at night, in dangerous places, and we have to be on the streets until we are 30 weeks pregnant. When we asked for family reconciliation we have received coercive calls from the company. We are also fighting for the municipalization of these services. This is to demand better conditions and to be more recognized as women. About 70% of the managers of these services are men and the majority of the workforce, the technicians, are women. So that is why we are here today.
Reporter: Schools, colleges and universities also called for an education strike by students and teachers taking to the streets in a march that took place at noon. Demands included coeducation under equality principles the end of discrimination based on sex, gender or identities in schools, as well as equality in access to management positions and university chairs. Women represent the majority 55% of the university population. However, that percentage decreases when it comes to chairs of which only 21% are women. In Spain’s 50 public universities, there are only 11 women at the head of these institutions.
Ingrid Chavarría: The education sector is the most precarious because its services are privatized, for example, the lunchroom monitors, the special needs students’ caregivers are all privatized. This is very precarious and has consequences in the quality of the service. That is why we are on strike. Also because we have a regulation called the Staffing Decree, which allows the public administration to handpick the teachers. So pregnant and lactating women are discriminated against. Also because we had a co-education program in different schools called COEDUCA’T and due to pressure from the far right, who asked for the withdrawal of these materials, the Department of Education has withdrawn the materials on sexual affective education.
Mercedes Márquez: The university world is also a very precarious world at the level of the teaching staff, 60% of the staff is precarious, they have precarious, temporary contracts, with very low salaries and then when it comes to students, of course, they find that the teaching staff is unmotivated, in addition to the abusive fees. We really don’t have a public university in this country, and it is very expensive. Also in the case of universities, since it is a very hierarchical system, we find abuses of power by some professors or against female students, especially in PhD programs, and there are cases of sexual and workplace harassment that are being covered up by the universities. They are well known situations where charges have been filed, and the university drags out the process. Dragging it out makes it look like there will be a resolution. That resolution never comes. And in the meantime, the faculty is free to do as they please.
Reporter: At the CGT strike, protesters demanded their repeal of the Labor Reform and Immigration Law, as well as the end of privatization, discrimination and employment, layoffs and difficulties in work and family life conciliation. According to a report prepared by LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum, women in Spain are 65% less likely to be promoted in the labor market than men. According to the same study. Only six out of every hundred CEOs in Spain are women.
Nuria Gil Ruiz: We have called for a general strike because women are in charge of paid and unpaid care and despite the progress made in recent times, we continue to suffer from precariousness in a more crude way and inequalities continue to exist that make it difficult for us to have the same opportunities. We demand a dignified life, free of wage gap, gender violence, harassment of any kind, especially gender-based, human trafficking, exploitation of other people’s bodies and demand recognition for care work which is of crucial importance in our society. We demand conciliation policies against the firing of pregnant women and nursing mothers, decent and adapted working hours and a distribution of wealth to reduce the disparity which also affects women, who make up 70% of people under the poverty threshold. It is important for women to join a union because we have been taught to stand alone, to be able to handle everything and not to raise our voices. Affiliation allows us to defend our rights together with the union structure behind us and through mutual support, lose our fear and feel that we are not alone.
Reporter: Female pensioners are among those most affected by gender inequality, as many of them never worked paid jobs and devoted themselves to their families and household care. In Spain, the gender gap in pensions currently stands at 33%, with men receiving an average of €1,439 compared to the €966 received by women.
Rosalía Molina: We talk about energy poverty because there are many women pensioners or retired women who had never worked in their lives because they had dedicated themselves to taking care of their families, who find themselves in a situation of helplessness, earning very little, who cannot even have electricity or be able to pay the minimum expenses. In other words, a total wage gap. Women who are left alone, women who are widowed, have a miserable pension that they cannot even live on. So, today and every day of the year, we must continue to take to the streets and fight for the whole issue of the pension plan and for dignity in life. And young people, especially women, it continues to be the women who are responsible for all the care work in society in general, not only for our children, but also for the elderly and dependents. All jobs related to family independent care fall on women.
Reporter: The special system for domestic employees is a largely feminized sector in Spain, 95.5% of the more than 376,000 members as of January 31st, 2022, are women. Despite being covered under Convention 189 of the International Labor Organization, domestic workers in Spain are not allowed to pay unemployment contributions. According to data collected by Oxfam Intermon in 2021, 56% of all domestic and care workers in Spain are migrant women. It is estimated that 70,000 of these women are in an irregular situation. The independent unions Sindillar-Sindihogar was created in Barcelona to combat this situation.
Áurea Ayón: Sindillar-Sindihogar is a union of domestic and care workers. Our pillars are to seek better conditions for domestic and care workers, the repeal of the Immigration Law, which keeps us in a precarious situation and which also affects our lives as soon as we arrive as migrant women. Our banner says “No 8M without 30M” because March 30th is the International Day of Domestic and Care Workers. There is no feminism if it is not a feminism that is anti-capitalist, anti-racist, decolonial, etc. This year the Congress was supposed to ratify ILO Convention 189, but it turns out that the Spanish Constitution does not allow domestic and care workers to be included in the general regime until 2024. We are now in a special regime in which we are not allowed to take maternity leave, we are not allowed to have a pension, we are not allowed to take sick leave. So our main demands are the repeal of the Immigration Law, the ratification of ILO Convention 189, but a real one. They are not going to make laws to harm their own economy, their economy is much larger than ours, because sometimes they want to pay €3 per hour, sometimes they want to pay €600 per month for a person who is working as an intern, because they say “ah, since you live here, then I discount your housing, I discount your food and then with that it would be about €1,100” But they do not take into account that the workers, especially those who are interns, work 24 hours a day. We are an independent union because we do not receive government help. We weave this network together, we build together, we support each other, most of us are migrant women with and without legal papers, with or without regular administrative status, but the most important thing is that we are fighting for a dignified life so that all women can have a dignified life here and wherever we are.
Reporter: After the massive march that brought more than 60,000 people together in Barcelona this day of general strike in Catalonia came to an end. Although no other strikes were called for in other regions of Spain, thousands of women took to the streets to fight for their rights.
Protesters: “Long live the transfeminist fight!”
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