Since the current right-wing PP government came into power at the end of 2011, State pensions have only gone up by the minimum stipulated by law – 0.25% – every January 1.
This means pensioners are now poorer than they were six years ago because the increases have not kept up with inflation or rising living costs.
Around 100 demonstrations have taken place throughout the country today, with tens of thousands of State pensioners joining in, carrying placards and banging drums.
This is the latest in a series of protests organised since September by Spain’s main unions, the Labourers’ Commissions (CCOO) and General Workers’ Union (UGT).
As well as current pension payments, the CCOO and UGT are concerned that the government’s having borrowed so much from reserve funds that these are nearly empty will eventually lead to retirement payments not being guaranteed, or being very low, for future pensioners.
Although the march in Madrid was the largest, other towns and cities have been filled with demonstrators today – around 10,000 in Gijón (Asturias), 7,000 in Santander (Cantabria) and about 2,000 each in Valladolid, León and Ponferrada in the centre-northern region of Castilla y León.
At least 8,000 demonstrators hit the streets in Toledo, Albacete, Guadalajara and Cuenca in Castilla-La Mancha in the centre of the country, and similar turn-outs were seen in Valencia, Alicante, Elche and Castellón (Comunidad Valenciana), Badajoz (Extremadura) Pamplona (Navarra), and Santiago de Compostela and Vigo (Galicia).
Some 400 marched through Palma de Mallorca and about another 2,000 in Barcelona, with 500 to 1,000 in Zaragoza (Aragón) Ávila (Castilla y León) and Ciudad Real (Castilla-La Mancha).
Speaking from the town of Gádor in the province of Almería, health minister Dolors Montserrat stressed that her government ‘is always thinking of the pensioners’ of Spain and recalled that other cabinets in the past and elsewhere in Europe have frozen pensions altogether.
She says the 2018 State budget includes a 3% rise for the lowest pensions and 2% for widows’ and widowers’ pensions and non-contributory ones.
But no extra increases appear to have been included for those on middle-income pensions.