MADRID — Spain’s two main unions, the UGT and the CCOO, yesterday called for a general strike on March 29 to protest the conservative government’s labour market reforms and austerity measures. The general strike will take place just before the government unveils its budget for 2012 which is expected to impose steep spending cuts to rein in Spain’s public deficit.
In a statement, CCOO said the work stoppage was in response to “the government’s unilateral decision to put in place a labour market reform and a new and hard budget adjustment.” Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests organised by the two unions across Spain on February 19 against the labour market reforms which make it easier to slash pay and lay off workers.
The two unions will stage another day of protests against the reform tomorrow. The reform is a key part of the government’s efforts to revive the economy but unions argue it will cause the unemployment rate — already the highest in the developed world at 22.85 per cent — to rise further.
“This reform will not provide jobs, it will destroy even more jobs. The government itself has acknowledged that this year we could shed 650,000 jobs,” the CCOO statement said.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government, which came to power after winning an election on November 20, has already announced spending cuts of 8.9 billion euros ($11.5 billion), including a public sector wage freeze, and tax increases on income, savings and property to bring in 6.3 billion euros.
It has vowed to implement further measures to slash a bloated public deficit and revive growth to avoid being dragged back to the centre of a crisis of confidence in euro zone sovereign debt.
Rajoy on March 2 raised Spain’s deficit target for 2012 to 5.8 per cent, above an EU-agreed target of 4.4 per cent, citing a higher than expected deficit last year.
Spain is to present its 2012 budget by the end of March. It is currently operating on an extension of the 2011 budget.
There have only been five general strikes in Spain since the country returned to democracy following the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. The last general strike was held on September 29, 2010 against a labour market reform introduced by the previous Socialist government. — AFP