Wednesday, November 14, 2012

European Workers Stage Anti-Austerity Demonstrations, Strikes

14 November 2012
Last updated at 01:07 ET

European workers stage austerity protests

Unions warned that austerity was a "total dead end"

BBC World News

Workers across the European Union are staging a series of protests and strikes against rising unemployment and austerity measures.

The Day of Action and Solidarity calls on leaders to address growing social anxiety and abandon austerity measures.

Some 40 groups from 23 countries are involved in Wednesday's protests.

Strikes are expected in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, with other protests planned in Belgium, Germany, France the UK and some eastern EU states.

Wednesday's action, which may affect some transport links and services across the continent, has been urged by the European Trade Union Confederation.

"Austerity is a total dead end, and must be abandoned," said the group in a statement.

Continental protests

Unions in Spain and Portugal started strikes at midnight local time (23:00 GMT), to protest against austerity measures that have combined cuts in salaries, pensions, benefits and social services with hikes in tax rises.

Italy will see a four-hour national strike which transport workers are also expected to join.

In Greece the strike action is the third major walkout in two months as the country tries to reduce its budget deficit in line with international demands.

The government must meet a 5bn-euro debt repayment by Friday and says it needs the bailout cash to avoid going bankrupt.

Greece must back a package of salary and pension cuts, and labour market reforms, and the 2013 budget, to receive the next part of a bailout - a 31.5bn-euro instalment from the International Monetary Fund and European Union that has been on hold for months - and avoid bankruptcy.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says that with proposals for a fifth consecutive cut to pensions, an increase in the retirement age and reductions to salaries, benefits and healthcare, the fury among Greece's population is growing.

In France, the CGT union has called for public sector strikes, but there are questions about how many workers will stay away.

The strikes are not anti-government, correspondents say, but rather a way of showing that workers in France are in solidarity with their fellow-workers elsewhere in Europe.

While some Belgian unions have told the BBC they will not be striking, all have expressed solidarity with the day's protests, which is expected to see demonstrations outside the Brussels embassies of Germany, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and the Republic of Ireland.

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