Tens of thousands Spaniards march in May Day demos
More than 10,000 people gathered in the centre of Madrid while other protests were held in major key cities such as Barcelona, Seville and Valencia.MADRID – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Spain on Friday in May Day rallies marked by anger over the economic crisis which has saddled the country with the highest unemployment rate in Europe.
More than 10,000 people gathered in the centre of Madrid in a demonstration organised by the country's two largest trade union confederations, UGT and CCOO, which said the crisis was Spain's worst in 15 years.
Many participants waved red union flags or held signs with the slogan of the rally: ‘To face up to the crisis: employment, public investment and social protection’.
CCOO leader Ignacio Fernandez Toxo did not rule out a general strike if "someone decides to go down a different path" that does not involve dialogue with unions over measures to revive the economy.
Protests were held in other key cities including Barcelona, Seville and Valencia.
Unions in Spain are calling for a national pact between political parties, the government and public administrations so they all "row in the same direction" to fight the recession and replace some of the thousands of jobs being lost each week in the country.
Formerly one of the eurozone's chief engines of economic growth and job creation, Spain suffered an abrupt change of fortunes last year when the outbreak of the global financial crisis hastened a correction that was already under way in its key real estate sector.
Europe's fifth largest economy, which expanded at an impressive 3.7 percent in 2007, entered its first recession in 15 years at the end of 2008.
Last week the International Monetary Fund said Spain will see two full years of recession, with the economy contracting 3.0 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2010 and unemployment hitting 19.3 percent next year.
The unemployment rate rose to 17.36 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from 13.91 percent in the previous quarter, its highest level since 1998 and double the average in the 27-nation European Union.
AFP / Expatica