Twenty thousand Spaniards demonstrated in defense of public services this Tuesday evening in the capital Madrid.
Comissiones Obreras, UGT and other unions highlighted the negative impact on users of services, from health, where patients face reduced contact time with professional medical staff and longer waiting times, to poorer social care for elderly relatives, reduced emergency cover and poorer tax collection in a country with a scandalously large parallel ‘black’ economy.
The marchers, who departed from Plaza de Neptuno and headed for Puerta del Sol, the symbolic centre of the indignados (Spain’s Occupy movement), also raised the alarm over privatisation.
In a manifesto co-signed by the unions, the Madrid administration – controlled by the same right-wing Popular Party that is also now running the country – came under heavy fire.
The unions argue savings to public spending achieved by removing thousands of teaching posts are being channelled into private education for a privileged few. The same is occurring in health where cuts are leading to a stressed, overworked workforce delivering a worse service, even as funds for contracts with prívate firms have increased by 30%.
The “privatising strategy” of the Madrid administration was also threatening other public services from TV and radio stations to the Metro, they said.
Firefighters, teachers, health workers and civil servants were among the protestors. They face a budget-driven increase in the working week and penalties for sickness absence.
The protests are part of a series of mobilisations against ‘recortes’, cuts, and in defence of public services in the capital. Here’s a video (Spanish) of a demonstration on February 3