Spanish unions to announce general strike on Tuesday

14th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's two main unions will make a formal call on Tuesday for a one-day general strike to protest the government's planned reforms of the country's labour market, a union leader announced.

The CCOO and the UGT, which together have some two million members, have threatened for several days to call a national general strike over the reform plan.

The Socialist government on Friday unveiled details of the reforms, which are aimed at reviving Spain's fragile economy and easing market fears of a Greek-style debt crisis.

The cabinet is to approve the plan on Wednesday before a June 22 vote in parliament, where the government is seven seats short of a majority.

CCOO spokesman Fernando Lezcano said Monday that "there will be a general strike" and that the leaders of the two unions will meet on Tuesday to decide on the date.

"The date will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday) as well as the procedure to be followed to prepare for this general strike," he said.

UGT head Toni Ferrer said on Saturday that the plan "undermines the rights of workers."

But Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero defended the labour reforms, which he said "maintain the rights of the workers and match the expectations of those workers who have precarious jobs."

The government is pushing ahead with its own version of the plan after talks between unions, employers and the government to reach a consensus collapsed on Thursday after nearly two years.

The reforms, which the International Monetary Fund said are urgently needed, would facilitate the hiring and firing of workers, thus cutting an unemployment rate which has soared to more than 20 percent, and slashing government spending on jobless benefits.

Among the measures included in a draft released by the labour ministry is the creation of a government-sponsored fund for each worker that could be used by firms to pay a portion of an employee's severance in case of a dismissal.

Many economists blame the high jobless rate on the high cost of firing workers in Spain, which makes employers reluctant to hire staff and encourages the use of temporary contracts that have few benefits and rights.

© 2010 AFP

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