Spanish unions give notice of general strike September 29

7th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's two biggest unions gave formal notice Tuesday of a general strike on September 29 to protest labour reforms that would make it easier to fire workers.

The Communist-led CCOO and the moderate UGT called the strike in June in anger at Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's cost-paring response to Spain's economic agonies.

Under Spanish law, unions have to deliver formal notice of the industrial action to the interior ministry.

Unions are also fighting steep government spending cuts, including an average civil servant salary reduction of five percent and plans to gradually raise the retirement age to 67 from 65.

It will be the first general strike in Spain since 2002.

The two unions, representing a combined two million workers, accused the Socialist Party government, which came to power in 2004, of embracing free market principles.

"It will not reduce the segmentation of the Spanish labour market, it will increase it," CCOO secretary general Fernando Toxo said after the unions delivered notice of the strike.

The strike is timed to coincide with a European "day of action" on September 29.

Zapatero says the changes are needed to restore lost economic competitiveness, boost job creation in a country where the unemployment rate has soared to 20 percent and avoid a Greek-style debt crisis.

The labour market reform is waiting for final approval from the lower house of parliament on September 9.

There are indications that the general strike may not be as successful as unions hope.

The proportion of Spaniards who said they were sure to take part in the work stoppage dropped to nine percent in August from 15 percent in July, a poll published Sunday in centre-left newspaper El Pais showed.

Some participants at an annual miners' rally on Sunday in the northern town of Rodiezmo called out "Don't do it!" whenever union leaders mentioned the general strike, according to Spanish media reports.

A civil servants' strike in June over the government austerity measures, seen as a trial for the general strike, failed to cause widespread disruption to public services.

© 2010 AFP

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