Arab Today, arab today antiausterity strikes protests across europe
Last Updated : GMT 21:53:08
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Anti-austerity strikes, protests across Europe

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Anti-austerity strikes, protests across Europe

Madrid - AFP

Workers went on strike across southern Europe on Wednesday to battle austerity cuts, some blocking streets or burning tyres at picket lines as they paralysed swathes of industry and transport. Spain and Portugal held the first coordinated general strike in the Iberian Peninsula, slashing train, bus and metro services, halting factories and cancelling more than 700 flights. They were backed by temporary walkouts in Italy, the number-three eurozone economy, and Greece, which is fighting to avert default despite agreeing 13.5 billion euros ($17 billion) in cuts and tax increases. \"In some countries, people\'s exasperation is reaching a peak,\" said Bernadette Segol, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, which organised the \"Day of Action and Solidarity\". \"We need urgent solutions to get the economy back on track, not stifle it with austerity. Europe\'s leaders are wrong not to listen to the anger of the people who are taking to the streets.\" It was the first time workers had agreed on simultaneous strikes in four European countries, the confederation said. Demonstrators from Spain\'s main trade unions, some waving red flags, set up picket lines overnight at factories, train stations and markets as they launched the second general strike in eight months. In Madrid, police tried to disperse students blocking roads in the city centre. In the main squares, unions strung up red-and-white banners declaring: \"They are taking away our future!\" Earlier, in Barcelona, strikers burnt tyres outside the Mercabarna wholesale market. Frustration at the right-leaning government\'s spending cuts and tax increases is boiling over in Spain, where one in four workers is unemployed and the economy is in deep recession. By late morning, Spanish police had arrested 62 people and 34 people had been injured, 18 of them police, in \"isolated incidents,\" said an interior ministry spokeswoman. Electricity usage was down 15.8 percent from normal, a sign of the impact on industry, she said. That compared to a drop of 21.2 percent at the same time in the last Spanish general strike in March. Unions, however, said participation was massive, surpassing 85 percent in some industrial sectors. Strikers froze factories including Volkswagen\'s car plant in northern Navarra and a Ford plant in the eastern Valencia region, Spanish media said. Buses and trains ran with sharply reduced schedules. In Madrid\'s central Neptuno square, 55-year-old union official Matias Martinez said he had been unemployed for two years, his benefits had run out and he was applying for aid of 420 euros a month. Martinez said the strike was needed to protect workers\' rights and stop cuts in education, health and social services. \"They hurt the weakest classes of Spain,\" he said. In neighbouring Portugal, Lisbon\'s metro service was out of service, while ferries across the River Tagus and trains across the country ran skeleton services. Rubbish collection ground to a near halt. Hospital staff joined the action, with up to 90 percent of staff reportedly abiding by the strike call. Portugual\'s unions have called protest marches and rallies in some 40 towns and cities. Both Spain and Portugal have legislation guaranteeing minimum services in essential industries. But in Spain, Iberia, Iberia Express, Air Nostrum, Vueling, Air Europa and easyJet cut more than 600 flights including some 250 international routes. Ryanair said no flights had been scrapped yet. Portugal\'s TAP said it was grounding more than 170 flights, most of them international. Greece\'s unions are focused on the national crisis, rather than the European-wide action, and their protest is limited to a three-hour work stoppage and a rally in Athens. Despite passing a hotly contested 13.5-billion-euro package of austerity measures last week, Athens is battling to convince its international rescuers to unlock the next bailout payment to stave off collapse. Italian unions, too, have called a four-hour walkout. Union-led rallies to support the day of action are planned in France, Belgium and in Poland, where workers decry a \"social and wage-dumping\" in their country. In Germany, viewed by many in southern Europe as the paymaster behind the austerity drive, the union federation DGB has called protests across the country including in Berlin and Frankfurt. \"For now it is mostly people in southern Europe suffering from a crisis they are not responsible for. But the consequences will surely be felt in the rest of Europe,\" it said. High-speed Thalys rail services between Belgium and Germany have been cancelled for the day.

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