Spanish unions call strike over unpaid wages

MADRID — Unions representing coal miners in Spain Thursday called a strike to demand unpaid wages and government aid, as protests over the state of the industry escalated.

Six union representatives also shut themselves in a room of a government building in Madrid overnight after talks with Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian broke down, and said they will remain until their demands are met.

“The responses of the industry ministry did not satisfy us and we have decided to call a general strike in the coal sector for September 22, 23, 29 and 30,” the unions said in a statement.

The government “has given us no guarantee on the payment of the salaries,” it said.

Miners from Spanish companies Victorino Alonso and Viloria have stepped up protests over the past two weeks to demand unpaid wages for July and August and government aid to the coal industry.

Around 50 miners have since September 2 refused to leave a coal mine 500 metres (1,650 feet) underground near Guardo in the northern Palencia province.

Hundreds have also blocked highways and roads in northern Spain, while thousands of miners and their supporters have staged protest marches.

Four miners also launched a hunger strike on Monday.

Up until February, government subsidies helped guarantee coal purchases in Spain. But Madrid ended the subsidies in the wake of objections from the European Commission.

Deprived of government aid, Spanish coal has been more expensive and therefore found less buyers, which the mining companies blame for their failure to pay the salaries.

The miners’ strike on September 29 will coincide with a general strike in Spain to protest tough labour reforms introduced by the government to slash the soaring unemployment rate.

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