Workers launched an unprecedented day of coordinated action across Europe Nov. 14 in the biggest fightback yet against “austerity” sell-offs and cuts fuelling a continent-wide social crisis.
The largest demonstrations of working-class unity took place in Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy where tens of thousands joined protests against cuts ordered by the European Union and its partners the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
Spanish General Workers Union said a general strike was being observed by nearly all members in the car-building, energy, shipbuilding and construction industries.
That night protesters were preparing to rally in front of the parliament in Madrid over rampant unemployment, assaults on labour laws and retirement rights and mass job losses ordered by financiers in return for bailout loans for the banking sector.
Clashes had earlier flared when trade unionists trying to block buses from leaving a station were set upon by police firing rubber bullets.
Spanish trade union CCOO leader Ignacio Fernandez Toxo explained: “It’s a political strike, against the policies of a suicidal and anti-social government.”
In Portugal a general strike crippled transport including flights, while hospitals operated on skeleton staff and state workers stayed at home.
Protests took place in towns and cities nationwide.
Those joining massive general strikes in Spain and Portugal were boosted by solidarity action in other countries.
Big rallies and marches took place in France, Austria, London, Italy and Poland.
Workers in Belgium mounted a 24-hour rail strike that knocked out express links between London, Brussels and Paris.
“Austerity means cuts in the public services and public companies and also cuts in the buying power for the working class,” said Belgian socialist union leader Filip Peers.
“Austerity means recession and it deepens the crisis.”
And trade unionists from across the continent united to march on the seats of European Union power to demand the end to cutbacks imposed at their expense.
The EU-friendly European TUC secretary general Bernadette Segol, whose organisation called the day of action, said it was clear that austerity wasn’t working and that all they had done was create a “social emergency” in southern Europe.
Hung Tran of the Bankers’ lobby group the Institute of International Finance urged the cuts-obsessed troika to go slightly easier on Greece to avoid forcing it out of the eurozone and hitting his members in the pocket.
MPs passed another £10.8 billion [$17 billion] in cuts on Sunday but the country hasn’t yet had its latest bailout loan in return.
Photo: In Spain, the general strike has been the catalyst for mass demonstrations against the policies of cuts. Spanish General Workers Union/Unión General de Trabajadores.