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Workers in Spain are holding a general strike today over the new labour reforms which the Government hopes will cut unemployment and increase flexibility on the market. It is the first major strike against policies introduced under the new Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
The strike has been organised by the main unions, UGT and CCOO, and is particularly affecting the transport industry. Flights within Spain and across Europe have been cut to particularly low services while long haul routes outside Europe are reported to run at 40%.
There have been both mass protests and isolated strikes since the labour reforms were implemented in February. Unionists fear that the reforms will encourage more temporary and part-time work, instead of creating stable and permanent employment. They are also worried that it will make it easier for companies to fire employees and opt out of collective bargaining agreements.
“The people will say whether they are resigned to accepting the reforms,” said Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, head of the CCOO. The unions have also warned that participation in the strikes will be “massive” although strikers will lose a day’s pay.
Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe and the government argues that the reforms will boost the rather stagnant economy and create more jobs. But anger has lashed out over the reforms and recent polls in Spain suggest that 60% of the population are against them.
The strikes come a day before the government announces its budget for 2012.