Greece – Now 2 Million Public Servants On Strike In Spain – Italy Next
June 9, 2010 Leave a comment
Nearly 2 million Spanish state employees have stopped work in anger over government spending cuts that will see them lose about 5 per cent of their salary.
It is the first time civil servants have gone on strike since the government announced $22 billion worth of austerity measures last month. Spain has been in recession for two years. Despite the growing debt burden, the socialist government had promised the unions it would quarantine the public sector in its drive to bring down the deficit.
But the European Union (EU) warned Spain to start living within its means and Madrid responded with a vow to cut public sector salaries. In the capital Madrid, crowds of public sector protesters shouted “strike, strike”, banged drums and saucepan lids, and blew whistles and horns outside the economy ministry.
“We are very angry because this is not only an attack to our rights and to our salaries… there is an attack to the welfare. This is an attack to all the public services,” one protester said.
Unions say the 75 per cent of the country’s 2.6 million public servants were involved in the strike.
Garbage littered the streets, hospitals were disrupted, emergency services barely functioned and schools were closed.
Spain’s unemployment rate of 20 per cent is the highest in the eurozone.
To appease concerned financial markets the government has said it will not only cut public sector salaries, but also slash ministers’ wages by 15 per cent.
Spain’s baby bonus is being scrapped and pensions will be frozen.
Ahel Manuel Moreno is a university law professor in Madrid and has been a public sector worker for 22 years.
“As legal servants we are one of the few groups who are able to do some savings because we have fixed salaries. If they reduce our salaries our purchasing power will be reduced and that is going to harm the economy,” he said.
He and his wife work at the same university. Together they face a serious change in their family’s economic circumstances.
“I will be losing around 300 euros starting June, plus 300 euros my wife. That makes 600 euros less at the end of this month,” Professor Moreno said.
“The message is that not only are we having our salaries reduced, but that something worse may come. So the fear is that maybe it’s just the first bad piece of news.”
With workers in Greece and Spain demonstrating their anger at austerity measures, Italy will be next, with a general strike planned to take place in a fortnight.
Britain might well follow after one of the top rating agencies, Fitch, warned the new government that it will need to make deeper cuts in its public debt. European Union finance ministers meeting overnight agreed to introduce audit teams that will monitor individual countries’ budget proposals.
They expressed fears over Hungary’s economy and are considering sending EU representatives to Bulgaria to perform a check on that country’s financial health.