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‘Salary or conflict:’ 45,000 protesters swarm central Madrid demanding higher wages

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MADRID, SPAIN: Members of Spain's two largest labor unions gather to hold a demonstration demanding a salary that would protect its purchasing power against the high inflation and high cost of living that started with the Russia-Ukraine war at Mayor Square in Madrid, Spain on November 13, 2022. (Şenhan Bolelli - Anadolu Agency)
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Nov 04, 2022 - 01:16 AM

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Around 45,000 protesters took to the streets of Madrid on Thursday, according to organizers, demanding higher wages to help cope with inflation.

The protest, dubbed “Salary or conflict,” was organized by Spain’s two leading unions – the General Union of Workers (UGT) and the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO).

“This is an unmistakable sign that there is an atmosphere of conflict because workers will not peacefully assume that prices will continue to rise, that companies will keep making record profits without increasing wages,” said CCOO head Unai Sordo Calvo at the protest.

According to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Spanish workers, on average, will see real wages decline 4.5% this year due to inflation. It is one of the steepest losses in the study, with German workers expected to see real wages drop 2.9% and American workers losing just 0.6% of what they earned in 2021 in real terms.

While Spain is led by a progressive coalition government, politicians have not found a way to stop average workers from losing purchasing power.

“Real wages are plummeting in Spain as the cost of living becomes more expensive. Meanwhile, big businesses have increased their multi-billion profits and hand out dividends to shareholders,” Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzon tweeted in support of the protests.

The unemployment rate in Spain is 12.6%, revealed official data released Thursday.

It is high compared to most European countries but a historically low figure compared to the national average of around 17%, according to Spain’s Labor Ministry.

And while inflation in Spain in October hit 7.3% – well below the 10.7% EU average for the month – the country’s year-on-year inflation hit 10.8% in July.

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