Just in the city of Bilbao alone, 34,000 pensioners turned out, filling the streets, in protest against the deterioration of their pensions, and the flagrant lies from the Government.
But this is a nationwide protest and tens of thousands of irate pensioners have been chanting, shouting and even wrestling barriers from the grip of the Policia Nacional.
The permission to occupy the streets ended at 13.00h today, but who is going to be the policeman that injures a pensioner in order to clear the streets? It’s 13.51h already and the police haven’t moved. Each protester could be fined up to 30,000 euros, thanks to the recent law brought in by the Government.
The problem is not only that the Government had announced that pensions would go up by a miserly 0.25 percent, whilst the cost of living has rocketed, but that the Minister of Work announced this paltry rise as a triumph, crowing about how pensioners spending power has been maintained.
It was the last straw.
The only reason that the streets did not run red during the worse years of the recession was that pensioners who received 600 to 700 euros a month were maintaining themselves, their adult children (out of work and homeless) and their grandchildren – God knows how they managed and continue to, because things haven’t improved.
The fact is that the economy continues to grow yet the wealth generated is not trickling down to those who most need it – large companies likes banks, utilities and communication report profits, yet people are working long hours for peanuts, thanks to the Government’s labour reforms.
The CEOE (Spanish Confederation of Employers Organisation) has suggested that people of 45 or over should accept internship – back to square one. The present law that governs internship (school-leaver employment) limits such contracts to one year and only during normal working hours, but the CEOC wants it extended to three years or more and that night shifts and overtime should be permitted. Internship salary is below the minimum wage, so we’re talking about less than 700 euros.
The quality of employment has plummeted, salaries have plummeted, so social-security payments have plummeted meaning that the national pension scheme is taking on water.
The Government suggested that people should take out private pension schemes, but if people can’t even make it to the end of the month, how are they going to do that? The Government has been accused of pushing people into the hands of the private sector with scare tactics, thus benefiting a lobbying sector.
If you rile people who are working, scared stiff that they will lose their jobs, they probably can’t find the time to take to the streets to protest, but if you rub a pensioner up the wrong way, they have all the time in the world to rage in the streets; all day, every day.
The Government is going to pay dearly for this.