I’ve worked in the mines for 31 years. Life is tough, it’s dangerous. But I wouldn’t change my job for anything else.
The dangerous moments make you appreciate life that bit more. The work makes our community united—it gives rise to solidarity.
Not long ago my house burnt down and the whole community pulled together to help me out. My colleagues put in extra-long shifts in order to raise the money to pay for repairs.
Everyone depends on the mines—50 percent of the local population work in them. The other half depends on them for their employment.
We are on strike in response to government’s plan to slash the subsidy to the mines by 63 percent. They said “sacrifices have to be made at a time of economic difficulty”. They won’t stop using coal but it will be imported, almost certainly at greater cost.
Each mine in the region held a meeting to decide on the response. We voted for indefinite strike. There are now 8,000 miners out. The vast majority are active in the strike. Women in the communities are also playing a vital role—they are completely self-organised.
We have miners occupying several mines as well as the town hall of Cangas and the Provincial Government building in Leon. Those who are occupying have a disciplined schedule—rest time, visiting hours, rotas for work that needs doing, and so on.
But we need most people to be on the barricades. We began with small blockades of roads. The intensity increases as each day goes by.
The police said they were ready to face our methods. But they are scared. They issued a press release calling on the government to negotiate because it’s getting really hairy for them out there.
The government and the police have used brutal violence to attack us. We have to respond in the same manner. We only have one option—we have to use what we’ve got. We buy rockets from firework shops, rather than using the dynamite that is kept under lock and key in the mines.
Everything has been affected by the struggle. We have had a general strike. On the day everything closed down—pharmacies, shops, schools, colleges, supermarkets, bars. Hospitals provided only emergency cover.
There have also been big marches in every town. We had 50,000 in La Felguera on the day of the general strike. These are huge numbers.
The future of every single person is affected by what the government is doing—so it’s easy to motivate people. For the builder, the bar owner, the shoemaker—if the mine goes, the town goes.
The next step is to march on Madrid. We are going to arrive from three directions. We’ll arrive at dusk on 11 July, and will be joined by everyone from the mining areas. Then we’ll march into the city with the lights on our helmets illuminated.
We have always shown support for other sectors. Now we need solidarity. We are a target for the government because of our strength and our history. It’s a high-stakes battle.
If the miners are defeated, the government can move forward to break everyone else. If the miners win, the government is stuffed.
As told to Dave Sewell