Spanish miners begin nine-day protest march
About 200 miners began a nine-day march Tuesday in northern Spain to demand unpaid wages and draw attention to the plight of the nation's struggling coal industry due to the loss of subsidies.
The miners, dressed in blue overalls and helmets, set off in silence from the town of Villablino for the city of Leon some 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, images broadcast on Spanish media showed.
Their expected arrival in Leon on September 29 will coincide with a general strike called for that day to protest labour market reforms introduced by Spain's socialist government that make it easier to hire and fire workers.
"The march is set to end in Leon but if nothing changes by that day, we might not stop there. Our idea is to continue then until Madrid," said Augusto Pires, who represents the mining sector in the region of Castille and Leon, for Spanish trade union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO).
This is the second so-called "black march" by Spanish miners. The first took place in 1992 saw miners march from Castille and Leon, Spain's main mining region, to the Spanish capital.
The miners taking part in the latest march all have not received their salary for August and only half of the amount that is owed them for July.
Miners in several parts of Spain are protesting over unpaid wages and to demand government aid to the coal industry.
They have staged hunger strikes, temporarily blocked highways and railways and have since September 2 staged an underground sit-in at one mine near Guardo in northern Spain.
Up until February, government subsidies helped guarantee coal purchases in Spain.
But Madrid ended the subsidies in the wake of objections from the European Commission, which has called for all state subsidies for domestically-mined coal to end by the end of the year.
© 2010 AFP