By Sandra Stapleton

In 2017 when a pregnant worker from La Suiza patisserie, Xixón, Asturias, North Western Spain went to the National Confederation of Labour (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo; CNT) for support and assistance within her workplace, a bakery, little did she know that 6 years later this case still rumbles on.

The worker was experiencing abuse; denied holiday pay; facing sexual harassment including comments and opinions about her body; and she was given an excessive workload with no regard for the risk to her or her unborn baby. All this was perpetuated by her employer. There were failed attempts at dialogue between her employer and her Union, the CNT, yet he simply refused to meet with them.

The only course of action left was non aggressive collective action, civil protests, and a campaign to give information to the public about what was going on inside the walls of this pastry shop.

What followed was year and years of court appearances and legal wrangling. The bakery closed down due to the negative publicity and the outpouring of support from customers and CNT members, but to everyone’s surprise the police got involved and brought criminal charges against members involved in the peaceful protests.

This is the current situation:

  • In total eight people are facing the possibility of a total of 25.3 years in prison;
  • Seven of those eight were sentenced to three and a half years each;
  • The other was sentenced to eight months in jail.

The crimes: coercion and obstruction of justice.

Moreover, the sentence mandates a compensation of €150,428 euros for La Suiza bakery, holding CNT as subsidiary for the payment.

The police expect protesters to pay the person who humiliated, overworked and degraded the pregnant worker!

This seems so incredible that even when the workers were telling a delegation of Irish activists to Brussels who met with them, it seemed like a work of fiction. It’s not, though, it’s their reality. They are living in limbo since 2017 with this hanging over their heads.

They find themselves living this nightmare for showing solidarity with a worker and utilising their internationally recognised right to protest. Their resilience is to be commended, they have not lost their fighting spirit,  despite now facing criminal proceedings for something that could have been settled by dialogue and mediation in 2017.

With the help of MEP Miguel Urbán Crespo, a member of The Left group in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL), the workers came to the European Parliament to seek support and justice and to highlight their plight.

It was heartening to see some of those involved now work in a co-operative with fair working conditions and a strong sense of solidarity.

By highlighting their story in the EU let’s hope it brings an end to this insane situation they find themselves in. After all, isn’t the EU a bastion of workers’ rights and equality? Unfortunately at the moment it seems the only ones interested in this case which does have international repercussions are the likes of Miguel, Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and their comrades in the GUE/NGL, The Left in the EU.

We will do what we can to highlight their struggles and to put pressure on other MEP’s to get involved and find a resolution to this seemingly never ending battle with the judicial system in Spain.

La Lucha Continua.