Locksmiths in Pamplona in northern Spain are refusing to co-operate in evictions. This is part of a growing backlash across the Spanish state.
Spain’s housing market boomed in the early years of the euro. But since the financial crisis spread to its banks hundreds of thousands of people have fallen into arrears and have been evicted from their homes.
But in November last year two high profile suicides became a lightning rod for outrage. Amaia Egaña threw herself out of a window as court authorities came to evict her from her flat. In the demonstration in her town afterwards protesters shouted, “It wasn’t suicide—it was murder!”
Since then the government has passed a law granting a reprieve to people with large families or sick dependants. A number of local and city authorities have also taken their accounts away from banks that are pursuing evictions.
The APCP association, which represents virtually all locksmiths in Pamplona, voted unanimously in late December to boycott evictions related to mortgages.
The locksmiths say that the evictions are “governed by an unjust law, with the result that thousands of families are abandoned”. They have called for workers in other cities and other professions to join their boycott.
“We knew that it would explode sooner or later,” Adrià Alemany from the PAH eviction campaign group told Socialist Worker. PAH now has over 100 local groups around the Spanish state.
“During the housing boom families were forced to take out huge mortgages, which the government promoted as the main way to get housing. But in Spanish law, if you can’t afford to pay your mortgage any more you don’t just risk losing your home—you will carry a debt for the rest of your life.
“The bank can take the house for half the price and the family is evicted but owes the rest of the debt even if they can’t get another job. This affects 400,000 people and there are 500 more evictions every day.”
Adrià said that the growing movement for housing rights had given confidence to the Pamplona locksmiths and others to resist.
“The suicides have put pressure on the government,” he said. “But that’s not all—civil disobedience has helped stop 500 evictions since 2009.
“The more people go out and demonstrate, the more support has come from the locksmiths, the courts, and even from local authorities. They can’t afford to have thousands of people losing their homes.
“The banks benefited from the housing bubble and got lots of money from the public sector, but they don’t stop the evictions. People are asking how this is possible in a democracy.”
Adrià believes that PAH is close to winning a change in the law. But the crisis continues to exact its ghastly toll on Spain. Two people set fire to themselves in the southern province of Andalusia last week, one of whom has since died from their burns.
Now new government figures show a drop in the amount of food the average family has been buying since VAT was hiked up in September.
But the resistance continues too. Transport workers began a campaign of strikes against privatisation on Friday of last week.
There have also been large protests against health privatisation. These have spread from Madrid to Barcelona, where hundreds of workers are occupying hospitals.