Strikers take to streetsto reject government offer

23rd September 2004, Comments 0 comments

23 September 2004 SESTAO - Just hours before key talks between unions and management in the shipbuilders dispute, workers took the streets Thursday in fresh clashes with police.

23 September 2004
 
SESTAO - Just hours before key talks between unions and management in the shipbuilders dispute, workers took the streets Thursday in fresh clashes with police.

Unions representing the troubled state-run shipbuilding giant Izar were due to have talks with the state management company SEPI.

But at docks in Sestao in the Basque Country and San Fernando in Cadiz, in southern Spain, workers took the streets again, erecting barricades and setting fire to tyres in an apparent rejection of the management´s rescue plan. 

The violent dispute, which flared again last week, has seen at least 30 injured in clashes between police and the strikers.

The Izar workers have used catapult to shoot metal pellets at riot police, while officers have replied with tear gas.

The strike is being seen as the first real test of new Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The government has offered to privatise Izar, selling off the civil side of the company in one block in an effort to save jobs.

But a nationalist party from Galicia in north-west Spain, where many Izar workers are based, proposed a motion in the Spanish parliament to reject this plan to split the company.

It also said that Izar should challenge EU directive which reclaimed grants given to Izar, saying they broke competition rules. 

But Economy Minister Pedro Solbes said Thursday said to challenge the EU ruling would lead to Izar´s liquidation.

Unions at Izar, which employs 10,700 people on 10 sites, have announced plans to down tools on 28 and 30 September across Spain, following the failure of talks with Izar owners, the state-run SEPI.

SEPI wants to separate the military operation, the most profitable side of the business, from the civil side, which would be partly sold off.

Izar has been in crisis since the EU demanded in May that it repay EUR 300 million of EU aid that Brussels says breached competition rules. And the European Commission may also demand Izar repay more than EUR 600 million of additional aid, according to SEPI.

Izar is struggling because of tough competition from Asia.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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