by John Kalwaic
On Oct. 1 and Dec. 12, the International Workers Association (AIT) organized international days of action against Santander Bank in solidarity with information technology workers facing casualization and retaliation for union activity.
Despite being highly profitable, the Santander Group (which bought U.S.-based Sovereign Bank in 2008, in the depths of the financial crisis using funds it pulled out of land speculation in Spain just before the bubble burst) has been slashing payrolls and outsourcing operations around the world. In order to evade Spanish laws providing protections for permanent workers, Santander’s information technology services subsidiary, ISBAN, is in the forefront of transforming thousands of what should be decent jobs into ill-paid temporary jobs. In August 2013, workers organized in the National Confederation of Labor (CNT-AIT) protested this outsourcing; ISBAN responded by firing the union delegate (as a “temporary” worker, technically he was merely returned to the employment agency that supplied him, Panel Sistemas), sending a clear message to Santander workers that they risk their jobs if they demand their rights as workers.
The historic international anarcho-syndicalist federation, the IWA-AIT, which includes labor unions as well as other groups, responded with demonstrations around the world. The COB in Brazil handed out flyers in Aracajú and Araxá. In Philadelphia, syndicalists leafleted a Santander branch across from City Hall. The Polish ZSP demonstrated in Warsaw where Santander is trying to expand. In Uruguay the anarcho-syndicalists of Montevideo visited the headquarters of Santander Bank for an informational picket.
The Portuguese section of the IWA-AIT organized pickets in Lisbon and Oporto. In Norway the NSF picketed in Oslo. In the UK the Solidarity Federation held informational pickets in Brighton and Hove. The FAU in Germany picketed in Koln. And of course there were protests across Spain.
Where there were no Santander branches, groups such as the KRAS in Russia and the PA in Slovakia demonstrated against affiliated companies such as Isban and Panel Sistemas.
The dismissed CNT delegate made a symbolic gesture of thanks for this solidarity by putting up a banner in English in his current workplace, Panel Sistemas.