Metalworkers, police clash in Spain amid inflation protest

MADRID (AP) — Metalworkers and police clashed Tuesday in Spain’s southern city of Cádiz at the end of a protest march to demand higher wages in line with the country’s surging inflation rate.

Police used rubber bullets to disperse protesters who tried to erect barricades across streets in the coastal city.

The demonstration marked the eighth straight day of protests and coincided with a strike affecting the whole province of Cádiz in support of the metalworkers’ fight.

The inflation rate in Spain has risen to its highest in years, driven up by energy costs. In October, it stood at 5.5%. That has infuriated many people whose wages have stagnated. Hundreds of jobs have also been lost in the province of Cádiz, which has an unemployment rate of 23%, one of Spain’s highest.

Trade unions representing the metalworkers and employers have been negotiating for days without reaching an agreement, though they have said that talks will continue.

José Muñoz, secretary-general of metalworkers’ association FEMCA, told local public broadcaster Canal Sur that employers are offering an increase of 2%, negotiable each year. He said unions do not accept that.

Workers have been cutting off roads and bridges leading into Cádiz over the past week. They have also set alight some cars and barricades. There have been no injuries or significant damage. The general tone of the protests is peaceful.

Most of the employment in the province’s metal sector is in shipbuilding. Cádiz, a city of 116,000 located on the coast near the Strait of Gibraltar, is a blue-collar city where trade unions have deep roots.

There are 700 companies in the metalworking sector in the province of Cádiz, employing around 20,000 people.