Protesters in Madrid challenge job-market reforms
Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Madrid on Saturday in a protest called by the two main Spanish trades unions against the Socialist government's plans to reform the jobs market.Madrid - Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Madrid on Saturday in a protest called by the two main Spanish trades unions against the Socialist government's plans to reform the jobs market.
With the jobless rate running at nearly 18 percent, the UGT and CCOO unions called the march in Madrid to warn Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero against going ahead with the proposed changes.
Many of those marching Saturday called for a general strike to resist the government, but that is not an option currently favoured by the main Spanish unions.
Earlier this month, Zapatero suggested that Spain's employers and unions discuss moving towards a reform of the labour market based on the German model.
Germany has introduced a system in which businesses can put their workers on short-time working, with the government carrying much of the financial burden for a two-year period.
Unemployment there was running at 7.6 percent in November, compared to 17.9 percent in Spain in the third quarter of the year.
But UGT leader Candido Mendez told the demonstrators: "We are in a critical situation, with four million people out of work. The priority is to the fight against unemployment. People first!"
Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, General Secretary of the CCOO, told the daily newspaper El Pais that the march was to serve notice on the government that they should not take short cuts in their bid to create jobs.
"Since the beginning of the crisis, we have resisted the temptation of a structural reform that would lead to... a reduction in workers' rights," he said. "Now we are seeing an increase in pressure in that direction."