Spanish female footballers to strike over pay and working hours | News | DW | 23.10.2019
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Spanish female footballers to strike over pay and working hours

Some 188 players agreed to go on strike over wages and working hours, with clubs saying they cannot afford their demands. Women's football has grown in Spain since its debut at the 2015 World Cup.

Female footballers in Spain have gone on strike following a breakdown in talks with the league's clubs over working hours and minimum wages.

Of the around 200 members of the AFE players association who met in Madrid for talks on Tuesday, 93% backed the strike. If their demands are not met, the female footballers will stop playing in November — a move that would mark the first time ever female footballers strike in Spain.

Some 16 first-division women's clubs are operating in Spain, but only a few are considered professional. Among the most successful clubs are Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Women's football in Spain has grown dramatically since the 2015 World Cup, when the country made its first appearance in the tournament, and with it calls for more investment domestically have steadily increased.

Read more: Women's football in Germany: Glass half empty or half full?

The proposed strike comes as players and the clubs have been working for over a year on what could be the league's first collective agreement.

At issue are working hours. The clubs have imposed a limit of 20 working hours per week, while players have insisted on 40 and say they are ready to agree to at least 30.

"We feel that we are full time football players," Athletic Bilbao captain Ainhoa Tirapu told AP.

"Some clubs have had players with contracts of 12 hours per week," Tirapu added.

Players also want the minimum wage to be raised from the current annual amount of €16,000 ($17,800) to €20,000. Additionally, they seek protection of benefits for players in the event of pregnancy.

The clubs have argued they can't afford the changes the players propose.

Read more: World Cup shows how nations back women's soccer — or don't

In two weeks, the players are set to meet with the Spanish Football Federation to further discuss the matter.

"It's not only about the money, it's about our rights," Tirapu said. "We hope to reach an agreement at some point, but we need this drastic measure because it's the right moment for women's soccer. This is not being done for ourselves, it's being done for our future players."

AFE president David Aganzo told Spanish newspaper EL Pais that in terms of women's football in Spain, "everyone talks about positive things," but what is needed is to actually improve the situation of female footballers and that they "are recognized for what they do."

The impending strike in Spain is the latest fight for wages in women's football and it comes on the heels of the US Women's National Team high-profile lawsuit against their federation over wage discrimination.

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