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article imageFrance, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain & UK out on strike on 14N

By Anne Sewell     Nov 14, 2012 in World
In an action dubbed 14N, workers and unions across Europe have called for protests on Wednesday - some countries with a full-blown general strike, others with smaller actions.
For the first time, the European Trade Union Confederation has called for a day of action, including strikes in the four European countries worst hit by the crisis and also protests in other countries.
Declaring November 14 as European Action and Solidarity Day, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) made the following statement: “The ETUC strongly opposes the austerity measures which are plunging Europe into economic stagnation, recession, and dismantling the European social model. These measures, far from restoring confidence, are only aggravating imbalances and creating injustices,”
Flights throughout Europe have already been affected and some grounded, and in some cities schools have had to close and transport is halted.
In France, more than 100 protests are planned on Wednesday across the country, following the call of five French unions.
Bernard Thibault, general secretary of the CGT (General Confederation of Labour) in France, said "End this downward spiral".
"Every day in Europe, austerity policies show their devastating effects and prevent any chance of recovery. By choosing austerity against solidarity, European governments, under pressure from the troika, are dealing a serious blow to the social ideal that should animate Europe," Thibault said.
In Athens, Greece called for a three-hour walkout and rally, as the country struggles to satisfy international lenders.
Tania Karayiannis, international officer and member of the executive committee of Adedy, the union of civil servant employees, says "This is our only hope."
"..the policy pursued in Greece over the past few years, on the pretext of saving the country from the risk of huge public debt and bankruptcy, is socially unfair and has clear ideological features. It is expressed through the following policies: a continuous wage and pension cut, attacks on labour, social security and social rights, the heavy taxation on private property and the threat of further dramatic public services restrictions," Karayiannis said.
14N in Rome  Italy
14N in Rome, Italy
The powerful, Italian left-wing union confederation CGIL has declared a four-hour general strike in Italy for November 14.
The CGIL general strike was called by the union's secretary general Susanna Camusso, and has the additional scope of "changing the Stability Law", a set of financial restructuring reforms presented by the Italian government.
In Portugal, around 40 towns and cities have been called on to protest today for a general strike.
Around 160 flights have been cancelled. The Lisbon Metro is closed and only 10% of train services are expected to run.
Armando Farias, head of the commission executive of the CGTP-IN (General Confederation of Portuguese Workers), said, "We convey our solidarity."
"Unemployment in Portugal already affects 1.4 million workers in a country of 10.5 million. We have some of the worst working conditions in Europe, and the cost of living is still going up while wages come down. Around 500,000 workers earn the national minimum salary (€432 a month after tax). More than 1 million pensioners survive on misery pensions (€200 to €300 per month)," Farias said.
In Spain, during the #tomalahuelga action, Spanish police have already reacted to reports of property damage and disorderly behavior, with forty-two people arrested and 16 injured, including three officers, as mass protests hit the country and protesters hold a general strike. An evening rally will also be held outside the Parliament building in Madrid.
Around 600 flights have been cancelled (according to Sky News) and only 20% of train services are expected to run.
Fernando Lezcano, communications secretary and spokesman for the CCOO (Workers' Commissions) says: "The sacrifice is not being shared."
"In Spain, the recession is taking an incredible toll on the population. We have an intolerably high unemployment rate (more than 25%), the welfare state has been rapidly dismantled and public services and labour relations are deteriorating," he said.
There was even a small demonstration in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol in Spain and Digital Journal caught a little of the action on video:
United Kingdom:
UK travellers have been hit by European strike action. Today's strike action sees British Airways cancelling eight round-trip flights between London and Madrid and Barcelona, and two return services to Lisbon. EasyJet has also cancelled flights.
Ben Rocker, a member of the Public and Commercial Services union and of the Civil Service Rank and File Network, said, "This isn't a token action."
"We're about to lose any semblance of decent working conditions. The government has subjected low-paid civil servants to a two-year pay freeze while increasing workers' pension contributions. Workers have less money and struggle to make ends meet. After losing on pensions through holding just three single days of strike action in almost two years of the dispute, the initial response from the Public and Commercial Services union was inadequate. As a result, a growing group from different offices started talking about pushing for action," said Rocker.
Many other European countries are holding their own small actions today, including Denmark and Belgium.
In Germany, pockets of demonstrators led by trade unions gathered across Germany this morning as a sign of solidarity towards colleagues elsewhere in Europe. However, apart from several cancelled flights to and from destinations hit by strikes elsewhere, Germany remained largely untouched by the unrest.
Full commentary by the various trade unions can be read here, and live updates of the 14N general strike action can be viewed here.
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