Spain’s unions to strike over austerity cuts

City A.M. Reporter
SPAIN’S two biggest unions will stage a one-day public sector strike to protest against wage cuts aimed at bringing the budget deficit under control and preventing Spain following Greece’s path.

The unions held almost three hours of talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero yesterday to discuss his austerity plan, announced yesterday under pressure from Spain’s EU partners and the US.

They told Zapatero they “totally disagreed” with his plan to cut public sector wages by an average five per cent in 2010 and introduce a freeze in 2011, and reduce public investment spending by €6bn (£5.2bn).

Unions said they would put forward 2 June as the date. That would fall on the day before Madrid’s Corpus Cristi public holiday ensuring maximum take-up by public servants in Spain’s capital and leading to possible disruptions in the travel plans for many Spaniards over the long weekend. But a full scale general strike is not planned for now.

“That is the last thing this country needs at a time like this,” said Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, the general secretary of Spanish union Comisiones Obreras.

Talk of a general strike has threatened Zapatero’s government on several occasions, although analysts question the extent to which the public would respond to such a measure.

“At most a general strike, which I don’t think is probable, would be a gesture on the part of the unions to save face. But it wouldn’t have massive support from the public,” said a Spanish economist who declined to be named. “It certainly wouldn’t be anything like what we have seen in Greece.”