This is the week of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), a huge showcase for a business that is still thriving despite the crisis. An example of opulence and hi-tech standing in stark contrast to the economic hardship, unemployment and evictions blighting the lives of many families here in Barcelona.
We want to draw attention to the other side of this lucrative business. The companies driving it are like insensitive machines, amassing profits by exploiting workers. Most of these workers don’t even belong to the parent company –Vodafone, Movistar or any other- but to contractors and subcontractors. In these firms, payment is by piecework, there are no limits to the working day and labour rights are flouted. In the parent companies, mass layoffs are common: Vodafone is planning one for 21% of its workforce and Telefónica aims to shed 6,000 employees on indefinite contracts.
Let’s focus on Movistar, the biggest Spanish multinational and host to the Congress. This company has become the haven for politicians involved in corruption and charged with serious offences. On its payroll, receiving millionaire salaries, you will find people such as Iñaki Urdangarin, the King of Spain’s son-in-law, who has been indicted for using his connections with the crown to line his own pockets, and Rodrigo Rato, former director of the IMF and former head of Bankia, whose ruin he oversaw and for which he has also been charged.
At the same time as Telefónica-Movistar has been taking on new workers, it has sacked those it regards as “unprofitable”… for having been off sick, even with a doctor’s note. One such employee is Marcos Andrés Armenteros. In spite of him twice winning his case for unfair dismissal, Telefónica refuses to reinstate him.
Some months ago, a number of Telefónica-Movistar workers, including Marcos, staged a 23-day hunger strike calling for his reinstatement. Now we are going on hunger strike again and will stay on hunger strike at least until the end of the Congress.
We will be joined in this struggle by workers from Vodafone and other companies. We are calling for an end to all dismissals for taking sick leave and the reinstatement of all those unfairly sacked as determined by an industrial tribunal.
We hope we can count on your support and solidarity.