A complicated week

23 February 2016

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Accountability , Civil rights

Recently, because of the metro strike in Barcelona, I have been reading things like "Colau is on the other side now", as if “Mayor Ada” were a completely different person from “Ada the activist”.

In all sincerity, that is not how I see it. Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I'm the same person. Obviously, as Mayor, I now have different responsibilities from those I had before, but I am motivated by exactly the same things I always was: to do everything I can for the common good and improve people's lives, especially of those who are most in need.

I have defended and still defend the right to strike as a fundamental right that workers have achieved. However, I believe that striking is an extreme measure, a last resort when faced with a loss of rights and when the other side does not wish to negotiate; when there is no other choice. This was not the case here. As part of normal work-agreement negotiations, TMB, which is a public company, has been offering improvements in all the aspects put forward by the union representatives for several months: a pay rise, a reduction in temporary contracts and increased transparency within the company. We agree with the workers that the wage freeze has to end and that TMB's managerial structure needs to be reviewed and rationalised. However, the company's work committee has become entrenched in extreme positions concerning pay, with demands that are not possible to meet because of TMB's limited budgetary capacity. Or, in other words: to meet these demands, there would have to be fare rises, or worse service, or increased taxes for the general public. We do not plan to do any of these things. In reality, the City Council recently contributed an additional sum of money so that fare increases in 2016 could be avoided, when we actually believe they should be reduced. In spite of all this, some people have labelled us as being "managerial class" (referring to me, someone who doesn't own anything and has lived nearly all her life under quite difficult circumstances). In the end, the unions decided to walk out of the mediation talks and carry on with the strike. This was totally legitimate, but we believe that it was a disproportionate response under these circumstances.

To be honest: it hasn't been an easy week. But I am convinced that we have done everything possible, and that we were in the right place to protect two fundamental rights that should never collide: the right of workers to improve their working conditions, and the right of the general public to move around the city in good-quality, affordable public transport.

 I would like to explain to those people who are disappointed because "I used to be on the other side" or who are happy to confirm that "I've always said that power changes people" that the day that I decided to step up and become a candidate for Mayor, I was not being ingenuous in any way: I was well aware that I would have to face all kinds of limits and contradictions. But both I, and the team of councillors that works with me in the municipal government, work honestly and humbly every day, with the calmness that comes from occupying a position of responsibility without owing anything to political parties, banks, or anyone else, except the general public and our vocation for public service.

 

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This blog features ideas, thoughts and reflections on my daily life as the Mayor of Barcelona.

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