General strike over Spanish austerity cuts possible

Spanish workers took the streets on Sunday, October 7 once again to protest the government’s  proposed austerity cuts and other measures aimed at lowering the living standards of most Spaniards. More than 60,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Madrid; similar demonstrations took place in 56 other Spanish cities.

The unions that called the nationwide demonstrations estimate that hundreds of thousands took part.

“They are taking away the health system,” said Carmen Lopez a demonstrator in Madrid to Euronews. “They are taking away our basic rights, and that’s not fair. They are reclaiming all social benefits. It’s shameful that we are losing everything.”

The overwhelming majority of Spaniards share Lopez’s sentiments. A survey whose results were published the same day as the demonstrations shows that 77 percent of Spaniards support the Sunday protests.

Spaniards are also angry that their standard of living is being cut to bail out the banks whose reckless loans caused the current financial crisis that has left 25 percent of the workforce unemployed, the highest unemployment rate in the industrial world.

Demonstrators at Sunday’s demonstrations carried signs reading, “Their plunder, my crisis,” referring to the terms of the proposed bank bailout. In order for banks to receive billions of euros to help them recover from their bad loans, the Spanish government had to promise lenders, that the government would reduce spending on education, health, pensions, and other services that enhance the quality of life for most people.

In all, the government has proposed cuts totalling 150 billion euros over the next three years.

In addition to investing less in its people, the government also agreed to a demand by lenders that the government change labor laws that protect jobs and make collective bargaining fair.

The unions that called Sunday’s demonstration told the government that the frequent anti-austerity demonstrations like Sunday’s could turn into a general strike unless the government agrees to hold a referendum on the proposed cuts.

“It’s up to the government whether there’s a general strike or not,” said Ignacio Ferndandex Toxo, leader of Spain’s largest labor federation Commisiones Obreras to Reuters. “If they were going to hold a referendum things would be completely different.”

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