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article imageOp-Ed: Why are workers striking across Spain? (video)

By Anne Sewell     Mar 30, 2012 in World
A different stance on strikes in Spain, Portugal and other European countries. Opinions are given on the reasons for the strikes, and the effects of draconian austerity measures and unemployment.
In Portugal and Spain, workers are facing massive unemployment. Their labor and social rights are gradually being reduced, salaries are dropping and social benefits are being taken away from them.
As the Spanish debt crisis deepens, unemployment in Spain stands at 23 percent, the highest in the Western world and EU leaders and financial markets are demanding even more far-reaching reforms and austerity measures than are currently being imposed on Greece.
The Spanish government will vote today on Europe's most dramatic austerity budget and expect to cut a further 40 billion Euros, on top of the 15 billion Euros in cuts announced 3 months ago.
A series of radical labor reforms enacted last month make it much easier for employers to lay off workers, cut wages and modify pre-existing labor agreements.
Asturias  Spain - 29 March 2012
Asturias, Spain - 29 March 2012
Millions of Spaniards joined yesterday's protest - the employed refused to go to work and the unemployed joined them in a massive general strike and series of protest marches. They were further joined by the 15m indignado group (Spanish Revolution), who fully support the unions and unemployed in their fight against austerity and loss of social benefits.
The mainstream media is generally downplaying the numbers involved and are concentrating on the damage and violence that occurred during the protests, rather than the real issues involved.
Salamanca  Spain - 29 March 2012
Salamanca, Spain - 29 March 2012
Labor unions are claiming a massive participation of 85-90%. Industry and transport were the most heavily affected sectors. Many cities in Spain ground to a halt as buses and trains ran at a mere 30% capacity. The picketers blocked access to stations, and hundreds of protesters occupied and blocked a major access road to Madrid.
Police brutality - 29 March 2012 - Madrid  Spain
Police brutality - 29 March 2012 - Madrid, Spain
Riot police had to be deployed in an attempt to allow the larger main street shops such as El Corte Ingles to open during the day. Police brutality was the order of the day in most cities.
Despite this, the government claimed that the situation was "normal" in cities countrywide and assured the people that it "would not allow the country’s largest strike in years to upset its austerity drive."
However, with the economy set to contract by 1.7% this year, the labor unions are correctly advising that Spain risks a downward spiral, setting off a situation similar to that in Greece. In the latter country, draconian austerity measures and radical reforms have turned the country into one of economic decline, hungry people and social unrest.
In the video above, we hear from Professor Francisco Louçã, who is a Professor of Economics at the Higher Institute of Economics and Management in Lisbon, he belongs to the Technical University of Lisbon and has been a member of the Portuguese Parliament since 1999.
Louçã is also the author of many books and scientific articles on economic thought.
A breakdown of his very interesting discourse is that "a deliberate policy of using the crisis to break the social contract is causing mass unemployment."
He says that the austerity measures are throwing the countries back in time by 100 years, and that if the governments have their way, people will be working for minimal salaries, paying taxes, but receiving no health benefits, no public education and no unemployment benefits should they lose their employment.
So who can blame the masses for going on strike and protesting?
Video: Malaga, Spain on 29 March 2012:
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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