Spanish youths take anti-crisis protests to parliament
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets outside Spain's parliament Wednesday to condemn plans by the government to reform the collective bargaining system.
The rally, behind a police barrier that prevented them from entering the building, took place just a few hundred metres (yards) from where youths decrying the economic crisis have been camped since mid-May.
"These are our weapons," the protesters shouted, raising their arms.
"Cutbacks for those in parliament," was another cry, while some, pointing fingers at the parliament, shouted "here is Ali Baba's cave."
Many also took keys from their pockets and shouted "these are the keys of my parents," to remind the government that many young people are still forced to live with their parents due to the soaring unemployment,
"We are here because they are going to approve a law that gives all the power to employers," said Luis Fernandez, a 21-year-old student.
"They always talk about flexibility but never about the obligations of employers."
Unions and employers have been negotiating for months over reform of the collective bargaining system, considered a crucial plank of labour, banking and pension reforms aimed at reviving Spain's battered economy.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said last week that his government will approve the reform by June 10 even if there is no deal with unions by then.
The International Monetary Fund and the Bank of Spain believe the collective bargaining system, which includes industry-wide agreements that cannot be modified, is too rigid.
The Spanish economy slumped into recession during the second half of 2008 as the global financial meltdown compounded the collapse of the once-booming property market. It emerged with meagre growth in early 2010.
The crisis sent the unemployment rate soaring to 21.29 percent in the first quarter of 2011, the highest in the industrialised world.
Protests over the economic crisis began May 15 and fanned out to city squares nationwide as word spread by Twitter and Facebook among demonstrators known variously as "the indignant", "M-15", "Spanish Revolution" and "Real Democracy Now."
© 2011 AFP