A million and a half Spaniards took to the streets of sixty Spanish cities today to protest against labour market deregulation and spending cuts.
Unions estimated the numbers turning out in Madrid alone to be half a million with large numbers marching in provincial capitals as well as smaller urban centres.
This is the latest in a series of mass national and regional days of action in protest at the policies of Mariano Rajoy’s right wing Popular Party government since it took power in November and follows a call on Friday by the UGT and Comisiones Obreras for a general strike on March 29.
The south saw a particularly strong turn-out with unions estimating that 70,000 people were demonstrating in Seville, 10,000 in Jaen, 12,000 in Huelva, 20,000 in Cadiz, 25,000 in Cordoba, 30,000 in Granada and 50,000 in Malaga.
And Barcelona saw 450,000 descend into the streets, according to unions.
The fresh mobilisation against the government comes shortly after the country shocked EU and the markets with an announcement that it was loosening suidical deficit targets.
The EU’s public deficit target bizarrely assumed moderate economic growth this year.
But austerity measures, as unions and the radical opposition United Left have been warning and Greece has shown, have further weakened the public finances.
Spain has begun to dip into a second recession and unemployment has soared to 23% of the workforce and beyond, the highest figure in the EU. February saw a further 112,000 Spaniards added to the ranks of the jobless. The economy is set to shrink by 1.7% this year —with the consequent reduction in tax receipts and increase in social spending.
On Thursday parliament gave the final ok to labour reforms that slash the cost of firing workers and ease conditions under which they can be dismissed.
UGT leader Cándido Méndez today argued they wouldn’t create any employment, as the Government claims, but rather ‘cost a million jobs’. The reforms would mean ‘companies’ first and only response to the crisis will be the sack.’
Ignacio Fernández Toxo, general secretary of Comisiones Obreras, said that instead of labour reforms, the government should look elsewhere to tackle crisis and plug the deficit: ’Where are the taxes on companies, the fight against fraud, the financial reforms that reverts credit to the service of the real economy?’