The “unions’ celebration”

1 May, 2022

May Day demonstration today in Madrid.
May Day demonstration today in Madrid.

The “trade union celebration” has left its messages: support for the war and celebration of the war capitalism that is being imposed on us and that is beginning with a direct attack on the purchasing power of wages.

Table of Contents

Trade unions and the war in Ukraine

The first thing the Secretary General of UGT said after the parade in Madrid was: this May 1st is intended to represent the support of “the world’ s workers” for the Ukrainian state and its trade union organizations in the war which all powers are trying to perpetuate.

Not a single word addressed to the Russian workers. Not a hint of a call to overthrow both regimes that have prepared and pushed for today’s slaughter. Not even a minimum argumentative effort to justify the defensist lies. Total invisibilization of imperialism and the imperialist game. Sheer support and framing around the slaughter.

Read also: The invasion of Ukraine and the workers of the world.

Nothing else could be expected. The unions owe a what they are today, recognized monopolists of labor power, precisely to their role in two world wars. And not by fighting against it.

And, logically, this state nature of the trade union organization in our times must also be manifested in what we were invited to celebrate today: the supposed victories of the workers throughout this last year, and what lies ahead.

The war at home: the unions and the war economy

CCOO and UGT have been calling since last December for wage increases to be below inflation for at least the next two years in all sectors. More of the same, wages have been steadily eroding for the last 10 years. Last year alone, wages rose 3 times less than inflation. 16% of workers did not even reach that and saw their nominal wages frozen.

But after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the game is getting worse. National capitals across the EU quickly embark on a leap towards militarism and war economy. The trade unions close ranks with defensist messages while the prospect of a serious and massive impoverishment opens up, which can neither be easily dressed up as temporary nor imposed without a mobilization of the entire state apparatus. And once again the trade unions are the first to come to the call to close ranks with national capital.

Today they will repeat that they want “social dialogue” to maintain the purchasing power of wages. But if we read the small print it becomes clear how little they want to achieve: they want to limit the increases equal to inflation to the agreements of the big companies where it is already established as an automatic mechanism. And if for 30% of the workers -which is the maximum scope, exaggerating a lot, of those agreements- that would already mean a loss of purchasing power, for the rest it is equivalent to accepting a chopping block in their most basic conditions.

As president Sánchez himself has remarked, this is not about stabilizing the purchasing power of wages, but about stabilizing the wage cost of companies, protecting them from any updates that would compensate for inflation.

And as the general secretaries of CCOO and UGT repeated today: a real ” trade union celebration”.

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