The strike which brought the Madrid Metro to a complete standstill for two days last week is not over yet, although it appears that the unions are recommending suspension of the action for this week to give negotiations a chance. The Metro workers are on strike over the decision by Madrid's regional government to cut their wages, allegedly as an anti-crisis measure. There is no doubt that a Metro strike changes the face of the city, the strike coincided with some of the first really hot days of summer and the noise and pollution levels above ground were in complete contrast to the silence underneath the ground.
There have also been inevitable effects on productivity, as at least 10% of the active workforce in Madrid spent most of their working day bitching in internet forums either about how long it had taken them to get to work or about how long it would take them to get home. Many Madrileños have been confronted with an uncomfortable truth that they are reluctant to face up to, that many journeys within the city centre can be realised using a well established traditional method commonly referred to as walking. So instead they clogged up the streets of the centre with their cars, and the fiesta definitively belonged to the idiots who believe that constant use of the car horn makes a difference to traffic flow.
It's an unpopular action, but then having your salary slashed at a stroke is not a trivial matter. What caused much of the controversy was the decision by the unions to ignore the minimum services, which had been set at 50%. This converted the strike into a "huelga salvaje", or wildcat strike, and led to threats of disciplinary action from the regional government; who as we know have always been meticulous about respecting the law. The setting of minimum services at such a high level was obviously going to be problematical, as such a measure is designed to remove most of the impact from the strike. Actions like this are, like it or not, the only effective means that the Metro employees have of protesting at their situation.
Esperanza Aguirre clearly sees the strike as a chance for her to emulate her political heroine by having a "Thatcher moment", I'm not sure how to literally translate "the lady is not for turning" into Spanish but we may well find out quite soon. Even worse was the attempt to present the strike as a political action aimed at Aguirre herself, she is never shy of playing the victim. This tactic was coupled with the outrageously untrue claim that her government was simply implementing the national government decree on wage cuts for public employees. This is not the case, Metro workers are not funcionarios and even Aguirre herself has effectively acknowledged that ripping up their salary agreement is probably not legal. But she wants that money, after all in these difficult times it has become hard to maintain the relentless spending on autobombo and there are elections coming up.