H&M workers are closing stores and striking across Spain to demand higher wages

MADRID (AP) — Hundreds of retail workers walked off the job Monday across Spain in a new round of strikes against fashion giant H&M Group, closing a series of stores in the middle of the summer sales season.

More than 4,000 Spanish employees at Swedish multinationals including H&M, Other Stories and Cos are demanding a pay rise in line with the higher cost of living and protesting increased workloads associated with layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday’s walkout was the third day of strike action by H&M Group employees this month. Flagship stores in Madrid have closed, with hundreds of workers gathering in front of the city’s biggest H&M location to demand better conditions as online sales increasingly disrupt retail.

Union president Ángeles Rodríguez Bonillo told The Associated Press that the workers had lived with “freezing wages for years,” but now their situation was deemed unacceptable “due to the economic situation and the high cost of living.”

Inflation is high in Europe As the global economy recovers from the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, people around the world are forced Spend more on food, utility bills and other purchases. Consumer prices rose 7.1% in the EU in May, although Spain’s inflation rate was the lowest among the 27-countries at 2.9%.

The price squeeze led to months of disruption Workers’ strikes and protests across Europe Those who push for wages to keep pace with inflation.

In Spain, months of negotiations between the main UGT and CCOO unions and the H&M group broke down on June 19, leading to a series of strikes that began on June 20 and have now extended to two Saturdays from July.

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Mediation efforts will begin this week, Rodríguez Bonillo said.

A 24-hour strike on Thursday was observed by 80% of H&M Group’s workforce in Spain, unions said in a statement, leading to the closure of 100 stores.

European service workers’ union UNI Europa said the strikes reflected “a problematic attitude at H&M” towards more risky, part-time contracts in large stores that receive online orders.

“This action by management in Spain is not an isolated example. Even in the company’s home country of Sweden, workers are forced into the uncertainty of zero-hours contracts,” said Oliver Rothick, regional secretary of UNI Europe.

The H&M team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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