Barcelona marks the centenary of the ‘Canadenca’ strikeThis year it’s a hundred years since action by workers managed to establish the eight-hour working day, which was achieved in Barcelona following the strike known as the ‘Vaga de La Canadenca’. As part of the fourth edition of the Republican Spring, a memorial plaque has been set up in front of the three chimneys in the Poble-sec neighbourhood to pay homage to the workers who made it possible.
A strike which was a turning point
In 1919 the company Riegos y Fuerzas del Ebro was the main electricity supplier in Catalonia. The company was known as La Canadenca, as its capital came from Canada.
At the start of the year the hydro-electric power distributor decided to lower the wages of some of its workers in their offices in Av. Paral·lel, where the company’s three chimneys stand to this day. Eight of the workers from the section refused to accept the pay cut and joined the CNT trade union. Two of them were consequently sacked.
The solidarity of the rest of the workers from the section was immediate and they went on strike. In response, the company again chose to sack the workers, 140 of them this time around.
The wave of sackings and the curbing of labour rights prompted the rest of the workers at La Canadenca to go on strike and demand the readmission of those sacked and wage increases. The strike soon spread to other companies in the sector via the CNT’s union for water, gas and electricity workers.
The lack of electricity in the city affected transport, hampering the provision of supplies and paralysing 70% of factories in the province of Barcelona. The growing support for the strike soon prompted the government to take control of the supply of energy and the water service using the military.
The declaration of a state of war in the city led to over three thousand workers getting locked up in Montjuïc Castle, maximising the tension to the point where the fear of the action spreading to other areas meant negotiations were started between workers and the owners of La Candenca, with the authorities also present.
After two days of negotiations, an agreement was signed to free the majority of prisoners, readmit all the workers on strike with no reprisals, increase wages and cut working hours to eight a day.
All the demands were met and extended not only to workers in the gas, electricity and water sectors, but also the rest of the sectors in the state, with Barcelona a pioneering city in having an eight-hour working day.
Four years of the Republican Spring
Today’s ceremony gets the fourth edition of the Republican Spring under way, with a programme based around historical memory, festivities and reflection for everyone. From now until 14 April there are 24 activities planned around the city’s ten districts to celebrate the values of classic republicanism, such as freedom, equality and fraternity, as well as 21st century republicanism, with feminism, diversity, ecology and the defence of LGBTI and social rights all forming part.