Madrid’s Winter of Discontent

Piles of rubbish on a Madrid street during the street-cleaners' strike, Nov 2013.

Piles of rubbish on a Madrid street during the street-cleaners’ strike, Nov 2013.

It’s beginning to look like winter 2013 will be Madrid’s Winter of Discontent. When the street cleaners have been on strike for over a week and the bitter wind is whipping at the piles of rubbish and fallen leaves and every day it seems like someone else is going on strike or marching or picketing, you know you’re not living in a happy city. There are rumours the bus drivers will be out soon. The teachers pulled a one-day strike a couple of weeks ago as part of their on-going campaign against the government’s new education bill. More strikes are scheduled. Not to mention the doctors and nurses, who are taking continuous, low-grade industrial action for what seems like years. Scientists are marching against cut. Factories are closing down left, right and centre. And, on top of that, your own workplace is this very week entering into negotiations with the union to lay off almost 15% of the workforce and there’s talk of strikes among you and your workmates.

Unemployment in Spain is up at around 27%. We have 50% youth unemployment. Wages are being pushed down. People with jobs are just about hanging on in there. Those without are finding themselves ever more reliant on their parents or grandparents (God bless la familia española) or charity. There are people asking how much more of this crisis the Spanish can take. How much more austerity can be imposed on the people before something gives? The 15-M movement petered out a long time ago and it doesn’t look like any new grass-roots political movement is out there ready to spring into the void created by José Citizen’s complete disillusionment with the two scandal-ridden and corruption-tainted main political parties (the Partido Popular, in particular seems as pickled in corruption as a banderilla).

So where’s the hope, the good news? It will be a threadbare Christmas and flaccid New Year for many. If the streets are still fouled by rubbish by early 2014, the buses aren’t running and God knows what other services have been withdrawn, where will the people of Madrid draw encouragement from entering into the new year? This for me is a question the powers that be must examine and somehow address if Spain is to get back on its feet anytime soon. My own two cents is that the government must stimulate employment at all costs, embrace a culture of transparency that is severely lacking at all levels of administration at present and reach out to the citizenry by showing that the political elite of Spain are willing to impose the same suffering on themselves and their backers in the corporate and banking worlds as they have been on the man and woman on the street.

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About ucronin

Born in the country town of Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland in 1975, I now live in Madrid with my partner and two young daughters and work in a research institute. While I was always a hungry reader and harboured vague notions of being a writer, as a young man writing was the furthest thing from my mind; after leaving school, I did a B.Sc. in Biotechnology in Galway's NUI, an M.Sc. in Plant Science in University College Cork and a Ph.D. in Microbiology in the University of Limerick, the plan being to dedicate my professional career to scientific research. While having written extensively within my technical scientific field, I had never contemplated becoming a writer of fiction until a road-to-Damascus moment on the N69 between Listowel and Tarbert, Co. Kerry in the summer of 2011. Since then, most of my spare time has been occupied with writing. In whatever other free moments I have, I like to listen to music, play the guitar and garden (which here in Madrid means a lot of watering of plants and spraying for red spider mite). My ambition is to become as good a writer as I possibly can, eventually freeing myself from the cold clutches of science and earning a living through my scribblings. The type of writing that excites me is honest, intelligent, well-constructed and richly descriptive.
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One Response to Madrid’s Winter of Discontent

  1. I hope you’re not holding your breath for the government to help… I’d really miss reading your posts!! 😉 Politicians are not human. I think I realised that when our idiot president got elected. I so would love to drop off the grid and not know about these crappy conditions we’re placed in by politicians. I’m being forced to pay over 2 times more for our ‘affordable care act’. Gesh. Canada is lookin’pretty good right now! Ha!
    I did read a funny story about a theater in Spain that had a great idea to get patrons in the seats, abet the 75%tax the gov had placed on their tickets. They sold oranges (or other fruit) that has little tax, and with your fruit, you get a show! Great thinking!

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