New York Times
Nov. 14, 2012
By RAPHAEL MINDER
MADRID — Workers across Europe mounted coordinated protests on Wednesday against government austerity policies in a time of economic malaise.
In Spain and Portugal, workers staged general strikes. Unions in Greece, Italy, France and Belgium joined in protests and work stoppages to show solidarity with striking workers elsewhere.
The breadth of the demonstrations, which affected scores of cities, reflected widespread unhappiness with high unemployment, slowing growth and worsening economic prospects in Europe, and the resistance that European governments confront as they push plans for more belt tightening. Occasional clashes with the police were reported in some cities.
Among those striking on Wednesday were railroad workers in Belgium; airline workers, autoworkers and teachers in Spain; civil servants in Italy; and transit workers in Portugal. Union leaders called the coordinated actions historic.
Government officials generally played down the disruptions caused by the actions and said their countries had no alternative but to cut spending and reduce their deficits. The Spanish economy minister, Luis de Guindos, said his government “is convinced that the path we have taken is the only possible way out.”
Even so, Spain’s heavy industry and large parts of its transportation network were stalled by the general strike, the second since the conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, gained power last December. With unemployment in Spain at 25 percent, Mr. Rajoy has presented a tough austerity budget for next year.
The Spanish police reported that 142 people had been arrested by evening, and 74 were wounded, including 43 police officers, mainly during violence on picket lines across the country, but also following clashes in central Madrid.
About 700 flights to and from Spain were canceled Wednesday, adding to growing uncertainty about the future of Iberia, the Spanish national airline. Its management announced this month that Iberia needed to lay off one-quarter of its workers to survive.
The strike also severely disrupted automobile production at Spanish factories owned by Nissan, Volkswagen and other carmakers. With security guards and other workers off the job in Granada, the Alhambra palace, one of Spain’s biggest tourism attractions, was closed to visitors.
In Portugal, which faces similar economic and fiscal problems to those of Spain, the Lisbon subway was closed on Wednesday. More than 130 demonstrations were planned for cities in France, where President François Hollande described the economic situation as serious on Tuesday and called on labor unions to strike a “historic bargain” to ease regulations on hiring and firing of workers.
In a joint statement, five leading French unions expressed their “strong opposition to these austerity measures that are plunging Europe into economic stagnation and recession” and that “threaten the European social model.” Marches in Paris, Marseille, Lille and Lyon each drew a few thousand participants.
Full Article Here – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/world/europe/workers-in-southern-europe-synchronize-anti-austerity-strikes.html?_r=1&