As many as 100,000 marched in more than 50 rallies and demonstrations across Spain Sunday to protest against cuts in health and education.
Organised by the CCOO and UGT trade union centrals and the Social Platform in Defense of the Welfare State, 40,000 protestors defied the rain and marched in Madrid under the slogan: ‘We do not play with health and education.’
A manifesto produced by the Social Platform in Defense of the Welfare State, an umbrella body comprising 50 civil society organisations, was read out.
It stated that the welfare state was based on the existence of ‘ quality, universal and accessible’ public services which were also the most ‘dynamic’ at generating of jobs. It pointed out that social spending in Spain is below the European average already and that the government’s measures put the welfare state ‘at risk’.
The CGT and CCOO unions said the Government’s position was ‘belligerent’ and represented a ‘brutal aggression’ against workers rights’. Cuts in social spending via a reduction in welfare benefits will lead to worsening working conditions , the destruction of public sector employment, and endanger the welfare state, added the unions.
Cayo Lara, MP and leader of the United Left party, said that many protesters believed the government was intent on using the financial crisis as an excuse to sell off essential public services to the private sector.
Sunday’s demonstrations, which also saw as many as 30,000 march in cities in Andalucia, 50,000 in Gijon, 15,000 in the Castilla and Leon region, 8,000 in Santiago, Galicia, served as a prelude for nearly 80 demonstrations and rallies all over the country to commemorate May Day, which this year held under the motto ‘Work, dignity, rights’.
Both rounds of mobilisations were called before the Government announced an increase in the regressive value added tax in 2013 and opened the door to a reduction in social security contributions for companies.
Fresh austerity measures announced April 20 include hikes in what people covered by the state health system pay for medicines over the counter. In education, the government approved increases in university fees, raised pupil-teacher ratios in schools and working hours for teachers.
Education and health care systems are the main focus of the cuts programme that will sees a total €10 billion in spending cuts and increased fees as part of a drive to reduce Spain’s deficit to comply with EU/IMF/ECB demands.
AP News report