Millions of workers across the European Union have staged a series of strikes as anger against austerity measures and tax hikes boils over.
Trade unions across the struggling region have blamed austerity for the increasing levels of hardship being experienced by European citizens. Spanish and Portuguese workers are holding their first ever coordinated strike, unions in Greece, Italy and France are also marching and trade unions in Belgium have planned to put down tools as part of a day being heralded as a ‘European Day of Action and Solidarity’.
Violence broke out in Spain in the early hours of the morning with scuffles breaking out along picket lines resulting in the arrest of 32 people. Between 50% and 100% of auto workers joined the strike during the night shift causing activity to halt at nearly all metal works. Police said they arrested 18 people in the Spanish capital after demonstrations overnight. Protesters continued to march today through Madrid, where police increased security around buildings including the city hall and Parliament. Another protest is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Madrid.
“We’re on strike to stop these suicidal policies,” said Candido Mendez, head of Spain’s second-biggest labour federation, the General Workers’ Union, or UGT. Ignacio Fernandez Toxo the head of Spain’s largest CCOO union said; “We are launching a day that will be a milestone in the history of the European Union, it is a strike against the government’s policy of unemployment, misery and to stop this path towards the precipice.”
Intercontinental flights have been disrupted due to strikes at some of the continents busiest airports, as a result several airlines have been forced to cancel or reschedule flights. Spain and Portugal have been hit the hardest with airlines recommending passengers to check their flights before travelling.
“I’m on strike because those who work are basically being blackmailed into sacrificing more and more in the name of debt reduction, which is a big lie,” said Daniel Santos de Jesus, 43, who teaches architecture at Lisbon’s Technical University.
With the nations on the receiving end of bailout funds the future remains dire. The Portuguese economy has contracted by 0.8% in the past three months to September as austerity hampers any prospect of growth. Spain’s unemployment levels have surpassed 25% and its economy is stuck in a five-year slump, a slump that seems like it will never end.
The angry citizens of Europe are on the march, austerity is not working and many are beginning to doubt if the EU is worth the pain. Every week brings further bad news, with job losses, home repossessions, citizens filing for bankruptcy and the shocking increase in suicide rates as people in despair fail to see a way out of the mess they have been dragged into.
The question now is; with so many people marching and expressing their anger, will the EU’s leaders stop their disastrous policies and listen to their people?
The Pound to Euro exchange rate is currently trading at 1.2457
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