By Tom Mellen in Britain:
Thousands to picket EU finance meeting
Friday 08 April 2011
Trade unionists from 21 European countries will lead a rally in defence of fair pay, quality jobs and the welfare state outside a meeting of EU finance ministers on the outskirts of Budapest tomorrow.
Tens of thousands of workers, pensioners and students are set to show their opposition to pay and pension cuts, privatisation and attacks on working peoples’ collective rights.
Meanwhile the European Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be mulling over how to increase Brussels’ power to dictate economic policy to EU member states.
The protest, organised by six Hungarian unions, is a warning to the EU, governments and employers that they “can go no further this way,” National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions leader Peter Pataky said.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said that the policies Brussels is pushing are based on “austerity measures and fiscal consolidation plans that consist of sharp cuts in public spending, pressure exerted to reduce wages and to interfere with the independence of collective bargaining.”
It noted that “these socially regressive measures” are being taken at a time when over 23 million people are unemployed across the EU while bosses continue to pay themselves “scandalous bonuses.”
It has issued an appeal for “a guarantee of decent pay, strong social protection, protection of purchasing power, a guarantee of better pensions and quality public and social services available to all.”
The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) argued in Budapest on Thursday that speeding up “structural reforms” across the EU would make a “decisive contribution to the economic recovery.”
OECD chief Angel Gurria called for more market deregulation, “a reduction of the barriers to entry in the retail trade and liberal professions, the easing of administrative burdens on business and the removal of barriers on foreign direct investment.”
He said that the raft of regressive measures would serve to “lower government spending and push down the debt burden.”
In Hungary PM Viktor Orban’s conservative Fidesz government has angered unions by introducing an OECD-approved structural reform programme that introduces a new flat tax system and restricts the right to strike.
But the OECD insists that the reform does not go far enough and is urging Budapest to phase out access to early retirement programmes.
Thousands attend Budapest demonstration against EU austerity
Around 10,000 workers demonstrated April 9 in Budapest against austerity measures, while European Union finance ministers closed a two-day meeting in nearby Godollo.
The ministers’ meeting confirmed Portugal was next in line for tough austerity measures resulting from a “rescue” package.
The demonstrators, which included French teachers and Polish miners, marched through the centre of Budapest, many carrying banners of protest.
Lucinda Damasos, marching with the Portuguese general workers union (UGT), said wages had already fallen before the announcement the previous day that Portugal is set to receive a bailout of around €80 billion ($130 billion) on condition of major budget cuts.
“Portuguese workers should not have to pay for the crisis,” said Damasos.
Turkish Cypriot workers stage further protests opposing austerity
On April 7, around 5,000 Turkish Cypriot workers staged further protests in front of parliament against austerity measures.
The parliament building was ringed by riot police and some minor scuffles broke out when protesters confronted plainclothes policemen in the crowd.
Protest organizers claim that pay cuts in the private and state sector are being carried out by the Turkish Cypriot government on Turkey’s orders. Cyprus’s northern government is only recognized by Turkey, which maintains some 35,000 troops, since its 1974 invasion and division of the island.
MPs approve new constitution
HUNGARY: Parliament approved a controversial new constitution today despite a boycott by the opposition.
The new law has been pitched by the government as a step towards completing the transition to Western-style democracy.
However opponents have expressed concern at the centralisation of powers away from the constitutional court.
The new constitution has also been criticised for entrenching homophobia, rules to force the deficit down, and to remove women’s rights.
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