Earlier this month groups of protesters entered eight offices of INEM (National Institute of Employment, which operates Spain’s job centres) to highlight the plight of the 6 million unemployed and demand dignity for citizens. Not wishing to cause problems for unemployed people using the offices, the protesters kept disruption of the service to a minimum, and responses from staff and service users were generally positive; some of the waiting unemployed joined in the protest. In one office the protesters unfurled a banner reading “Network for dignity: we rescue people not banks”. In others, they were accompanied by musicians.
The protests were used to launch the Network for the Dignity of the Districts and Villages of Madrid (Red por la Dignidad de los Barrios y Pueblos de Madrid), a coalition which includes, among others, the 15-M movement (Los Indignados), PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca – Platform of People Affected by Mortgages) and neighbourhood associations.
The Network was launched with the following statement, dated 1 February:
We Demand Dignity: A plan for the rescue of citizenship
In our districts and neighbourhoods we can clearly see the consequences of the decisions of our leaders on people’s lives. We suffer fear of expulsion from the labour market, and our public services – on which we rely to compensate for the brutal inequality generated by our society – are under threat.
It is the residents of our neighbourhoods and towns, the vast majority of people, who are experiencing a diminished quality of life and an increasingly limited citizenship status, with no real rights, while a few brutally increase their privileges at the expense of others, impoverished and pushed into a situation of limited options.
Faced with this degradation of rights, neglect and impoverishment, we demand the implementation of immediate and concrete measures, to ensure decent living conditions for the social sectors that are being most brutally affected by the economic policies of the government.
As part of this plan to rescue citizenship we demand of government:
1. Basic income for all people at risk of social exclusion. The right to life is not negotiable.
2. Affordable housing for all, because a home is essential for dignity, family formation and social life. Stop repossessions! Stop evictions!
3. Free public transport for the unemployed and their families. The freedom to move is essential in social life.
4. Subsidized school materials. No child left without books to study and train.
5. Grants for students meals and travel. The possibility of training must not be limited by the ability to pay.
6. Training for employment. Specific training for the unemployed, to complement formal education.
7. Free medicine and strengthening of public services for mental health and drug dependency. Prevention is more cost-effective than curative and palliative care.
8. Maintaining existing health centres in neighbourhoods and towns. The Universal Right to Health overrides budgets.
9. Funds to meet emergency economic and social needs of households. Public resources should be used to support social integration and the reduction of inequality.
10. Free cultural events in public social and cultural centres. Culture is a major factor in self esteem and social inclusion.
11. Supplies of water and energy guaranteed to every household. These are basic necessities for life, outside the rule of markets.
12. Suspension of the payment of municipal taxes until the precarious economic situation improves.
13. Unblocking the Law of Dependence (aimed at providing personal care and autonomy for people unable to care for themselves) and paying sufficient attention to people requiring care. This is simple social justice.
14. Measures to care for children and adolescents, as one of the most vulnerable and defenceless groups in the current situation.
These measures require effective citizen control over public administration, to guarantee efficiency, ensure that the interests of the majority are served, to avoid wastage and bleeding of the public coffers through absurd salaries and poor contracts.
(Information taken from El Pais, 7 February 2013: http://ccaa.elpais.com/ccaa/2013/02/07/madrid/1360238231_045661.html and web-site of the Red por la Dignidad de los Barrios y Pueblos de Madrid: http://redporladignidaddelosbarrios.blogspot.com.es/.)