The tax office in Granada is not unlike any other governmental building. If you passed by at say about 10:58 in the morning it would seem just as you would expect; quiet, stern and with people walking in and out with serious expressions on their faces.
But at 11 o´clock exactly suddenly a strange spectacle starts. An elegantly dressed woman, a public servant you would expect to see behind a desk walks out of the building with a cheap plastic horn in her hand, and then starts blowing it frantically as if she were cheering a football team. The squealing signal seems to summon more public servants from inside the building all of whom come out carrying their own plastic horns and banners. Swiftly, the entrance is blocked by dozens of, mostly middle-aged serious looking, workers blowing a deafening cacophony of horns and whistles.
Passersby stop and look, some take pictures, others start applauding, cars sound their horns, and tourists look bemused as they look around for someone to inquire about what is happening.
This has been going on every single day since mid July, when the Popular Party right-wing government passed yet another royal decree enforcing austerity measures and budget cuts. The public servants here are protesting the decision to take away their extra pay. Their yearly salary is normally divided into 14 instead of 12 payments; the two extra payments are given just before the summer and Christmas holidays. They are also against the new law that offers ‘fiscal amnesty’ to those big corporations who have been dodging their tax payments. One of the banners reads: “We don´t want to be the Agency of money laundering, No to fiscal amnesty, Yes to fighting fraud.”
“Most of us here are mileuristas!” said Antonio Ruíz, the Andalusia representative of the Treasury workers union UCESHA, using the common Spanish expression for someone whose earnings are around the thousand Euros mark, “there are other ways to cut costs here without having to take away workers´ salaries. And besides, cutting the wages of the public sector lowers consumption which runs contrary to the idea of stimulating it in times of economic crisis.”
But the protest goes beyond just the extra pay of public servants. Here, as in other departments around the country, they are protesting against the totality of the policy of cuts and austerity enforced by the Rajoy government, “as well as showing solidarity with the weaker sectors of society, the ones from whom they always take away, because they think they can” adds Antonio Ruíz.
These protests have wide support among public servants within this department as well as other departments across Andalusia and all over Spain. “Out of some 400 workers here, I estimate that about 80% are in favour and regularly participate in the protest” which includes the daily 11 o´clock horn blowing concentration and everyone dressing in black on Fridays in ‘mourning’, “and we won’t stop, we will continue protesting until we defeat this injustice” affirmed Antonio Ruíz echoing the sentiment of most of the public sector and a large part of the Spanish society as a whole.
All Photos by Alejandro Garcia Montoro