Spanish, Portuguese workers fight austerity

Spanish anti-austerity demonstrators

By Ben Chacko:

Unions lead huge protests against cuts

Sunday 16 September 2012

Massive anti-austerity rallies took place in Spain and Portugal over the weekend as EU finance ministers bickered in Cyprus over bank regulation.

Police put the size of the huge Madrid rally at 65,000, though demonstrators said the true figure was far higher.

Marchers carried banners declaring: “They are ruining the country and we have to stop them.”

EU-mandated austerity measures following the collapse of a banker-driven property bubble have sent Spain’s economy into a tailspin and seen unemployment soar to 25 per cent.

Union confederation CCOO leader and president of the European Trade Union Confederation Ignacio Fernandez Toxo said the government’s policies were destroying any chance of growth.

“It’s a lie that there isn’t another way to restore the economy,” he said, calling for a referendum on PM Mariano Rajoy’s austerity and bailout plans since they had nothing in common with his election pledges.

Marching firefighter Carlos Melgaves said: “We’ve had our pay cut. We don’t get the training and equipment we need.

“There are more students and fewer teachers in our children’s classrooms and health care is also being cut. We can’t take it any more.”

Buses transporting protesters blocked several major roads in the capital ahead of the protest, which was led by the CCOO and the General Workers Confederation.

At a 50,000-strong protest in Lisbon demonstrators threw tomatoes and fireworks at the IMF’s headquarters in the country.

Portuguese PM Pedro Passos Coelho recently raised workers’ social security contributions from 11 per cent of salary to 18 per cent – equivalent to the loss of a month’s pay each year. At the same time he reduced contributions due from corporations.

Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar has said he will raise income taxes next year and cut Christmas and holiday bonuses from public-sector workers and pensioners.

But EU finance ministers meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus, showed no sign of heeding the popular anger.

Hunger on the Rise in Spain: here.

THE EU-IMF-ECB-imposed Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, on Saturday called for more time to carry out savage austerity cuts, warning that a Greek exit from the euro would be a ‘catastrophe’: here.

On Tuesday of this week the Greek finance minister revealed that the entire Greek economy is set to shrink by one third in the next two years: here.

10 thoughts on “Spanish, Portuguese workers fight austerity

  1. Thousands march against austerity in Lisbon

    On Saturday, thousands took part in anti-austerity protests across Portugal. Demonstrators in the capital, Lisbon, threw tomatoes and fireworks at the Portuguese headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Two protesters were arrested.

    Smaller demonstrations took place in around 40 other Portuguese cities. In the days before the protests, over 50,000 people used Facebook to announce their intention of attending the protest in Lisbon.

    Last week, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho announced an increase in workers’ social security contributions from 11 percent to 18 percent of their monthly wage. Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar said income taxes will go up next year and public employees will lose either their Christmas or vacation bonus—roughly equivalent to a month’s income. Many pensioners will lose both.

    One protester, Magda Alves told the Associated Press, “What is being done in Portugal now was done in Greece, it is being done in Spain, and was also applied in other countries on other continents. …The result was always the same: disaster.”

    Alves added, “In Portugal, another package of recently announced government austerity measures could turn the nation’s sullen acceptance of belt-tightening into an explosion of anger similar to that seen in Greece over the past two years.”

    Portuguese oil workers strike against pay cuts and government Labour Code

    On Monday, workers at Galp Energia, the national oil and energy company of Portugal, began a three-day strike over a cut in staffing levels and draconian changes in the labour code being imposed by the government. The strike began at Portugal’s two refineries, a gas pipeline and sea terminals. Dozens of trucks queued at Lisbon’s cargo terminal, the country’s biggest, as the stoppage was underway.

    Galp said some of its operations were affected, but that “supplies of oil products are proceeding normally.”

    Galp owns the Sines refinery near Lisbon which processes 220,000 barrels per day as well as the Matosinhos refinery in Porto, refining 110,000 bpd.

    The action also spread to stevedores who downed tools on Wednesday, and is set to be supported by port administration staff who are to strike Friday.

    In another dispute, sea traffic controllers and workers at ports nationwide began a 48-hour strike, which mainly hit new ship dockings.

    Thousands of Slovak teachers strike

    Thousands of teachers took industrial action September 13, in their biggest strike in almost a decade to demand a 10 percent wage rise.

    “Officials from the Trade Union of Workers in Education and Science of Slovakia said between 80 and 90 percent of primary and high schools and 30 percent of universities shut their doors as a result of the strike, the largest since 2003”, reported Reuters.

    The news agency also pointed out that salaries of Slovak teachers are among the lowest among the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and are also below the average wage in Slovakia itself—the second poorest country in the euro zone.

    Teachers’ pay averages €687 ($890) a month, according to second-quarter data from the statistics office. The average worker receives €793. Teachers are often forced to seek additional jobs to supplement their income.

    The government of Prime Minister Robert Fico is pledged to cut the national budget deficit to below the European Union’s threshold of 3 percent of economic output next year from a forecast of 4.6 percent this year.


    Spanish rail and subway workers strike

    Rail and subway workers struck in Spain Monday to protest the government attacks on jobs, wages and labour rights, included in plans to reform the transportation sector next year.

    The action resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of rail services and major traffic jams on roads into the capital Madrid and Barcelona. Around 300 trains run by the State rail firm Renfe were brought to a halt.

    Whilst disruption was widespread, a pre-arranged agreement between trade unions and management ensured that 50 percent of trains ran throughout the day.

    The strike coincided with rush-hour stoppages in Madrid and Barcelona by subway workers protesting pay cuts.


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