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Unions claim massive support for general strike

Thu 30th Sep 2010

The trade unions claimed that 70% of workers had supported yesterday's general strike, however, it failed to bring the disruption to the country, and impact on the economy as they had hoped.

Spain currently holds a 20% unemployment rate, and many of those lucky enough to be in employment seemed unwilling to risk redundancy or worse for striking. Some employers had warned staff that salalries would be docked if they failed to report for work.

Perhaps the worst affected industry wa transport - which brought a number of cancellations and delays. Basic services had already been agreed with the unions, however, less than half of Madrid's metro and commuter trains were operational during rush hours. Violence spilled over in some areas where picketing forced buses off the roads and a number of express train services were severely restricted.

Airlines cancelled flights to and from Spain, but this turned out to be on a much smaller scale than initially expected. A number of Manchester United fans were left unable to travel to see their team play against Valencia.

The scenes in the capital saw major disruption to the refuse collection service. The City usually enjoys a daily service due to the huge volumes of rubbish created, and it had backed up considerablly since the 'downing of tools' at midnight.

Many Food Wholesaler markets nationally joined the strike, which left a number of smaller shops without supplies. Additionally, some industries such as car manufacturing, shipbuilding and factories were at total standstill.

On the whole, violence was minimal, however a number of pickets were sucsessful in persuading many smaller shops, bars and restaurants around the country to remain closed but a heavy police presence enabled department stores and other larger shops to remain open. "We voted for a left-wing government, but we are facing a government of the right" said one angry protester.

The vast majority hospitals and medical centres operated normally, but staff reported that patient numbers were lower than usual. Most schools were open, although in some there were more teachers than pupils because school bus services had been cancelled.

The Unions had called the strike to protest against the government's austerity measures, which cut the wages of public sector workers by 5 per cent, froze state pensions and introduced new labour laws which will make it easier and cheaper to fire workers and raise retirement age from 65 to 67.

On Friday Zapatero meets with his parliament to present his budget and he is expected to announce even more cuts and tax increases. The countries economic situation is so severe that he has little up his sleeve, and is tasked with reducing the 11% budget deficit to 6% by the end of next year.

The Prime Minister commented on yesterday's events : "It is well known that I didn't want this strike, but I respect the right to strike and also the right to work"

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