Spanish unions call protest over budget law

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Spain's biggest unions called Monday for a "major demonstration" in Madrid on September 6 against plans to enshrine balanced budget rules in the constitution.

Leaders of the two main unions, the Labour Union (CCOO) and General Workers Union (UGT), also called for protests across Spain on Wednesday and Thursday to reject the reform and demand a referendum.

Fixing a deficit limit in the constitution would be a "serious limitation on the overall self government of the country," Ramon Gorriz, secretary of union action for the CCOO, told a news conference.

Gorriz, speaking after a meeting between unions and citizens' groups, said the reform would be "a permanent threat to state welfare institutions" and a "useless and mistaken sacrifice to the altar of the markets."

Several thousand people, mostly from the "indignant" protests against high unemployment and the management of Spain's economic crisis, demonstrated Sunday across the country to demand a referendum.

Spain's ruling and opposition parties bridged bitter rivalry and struck a deal Friday to cap the long-term public deficit and fend off fears of a state debt crisis.

The ruling Socialist and conservative opposition Popular Party set a maximum structural or long-term deficit in the annual budget of 0.4 percent of gross domestic product from 2020.

Only the broad principles of a balanced long-term budget are to be enshrined in the constitution, however, while the 0.4-percent figure on the deficit limit would be introduced in an accompanying law.

The deal was a surprise in Spain's highly charged political climate ahead of November 20 general elections, widely expected to deliver power to the Popular Party which is well ahead in the polls.

An extraordinary session of parliament on Tuesday will examine the proposed law, which will require support from three-fifths of both houses in order to be approved.

© 2011 AFP

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