Spanish PM vows to stay firm on cuts despite strike threat

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Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Sunday his government would hold firm on spending cuts despite pressure from unions which have threatened a general strike over the measures.

"I know there are protests by those who do not share (the government's views), like the unions, but we will not change," he told a meeting of his Socialist Party in the southeastern city of Elche.

"There will be no change, nor any swerving from the adopted path. We will respond to the circumstances and govern responsibly, thinking about the future of Spain and not any election call," he added.

Zapatero's cabinet late on Thursday approved a two-year 15-billion-euro (19-billion-dollar) austerity plan that includes a freeze on state pensions and an average cut this year to civil servants' salaries of five percent.

"They are tough measures but they are realistic and necessary to decisively boost our exit from the crisis and strengthen job creation," the prime minister told the gathering in Elche which included some 2,000 Socialist mayors.

The plan comes on top of a 50-billion-euro austerity package announced in January designed to slash the public deficit to the euro zone limit of three percent of gross domestic product by 2013 from 11.2 percent last year.

The government is under pressure to take action from both its EU partners and from the markets, which fear Spain could follow in the footsteps of Greece.

Greece received an unprecedented 110-billion-euro bailout by the EU and the IMF earlier this month to save it from bankruptcy.

Unions representing public sector workers have called a strike for June 8 while Spain's largest trade union, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), said Friday it would "probably" call a general strike over the government's tough new austerity measures.

"The CCOO is already working as if this country is going to experience a general strike," said CCOO secretary general Ignacio Fernanez Toxo.

"Probably we will have one... It depends on the government whether it happens or not," he told reporters.

© 2010 AFP

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