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Strikes in Spain?

May 21, 2010

Unions representing Spain's civil servants are threatening to expand a strike to protest proposed five-percent pay cuts and freezes on pensions and wages.

Union members hold a banner during a March 2009 strike in Barcelona
Spanish unions CCOO and UGT also held strikes last MarchImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Spain's largest labor union says it will "probably" call for a general strike to protest planned government austerity measures.

"Probably we will have one... It depends on the government whether it happens or not," Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) head Ignacio Fernandez Toxo told reporters on Friday. "Reaching the point of a general strike is dramatic but sometimes necessary."

Toxo did not say how long a general strike would last, but a CCOO spokesman said such actions usually only lasted one day.

Spanish unions had already planned a walkout for public sector workers on June 8. But until now, they had said a wider strike would not be called for.

Spain's government is under pressure to reduce a budget deficit that reached 11.2 percent of their gross domestic product in 2009. On Thursday, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero introduced a 15-billion-euro ($18.76 billion) package of budget cuts and austerity measures, which will need parliamentary approval.

The proposal would cut public servants' wages by five percent starting in June. Wages would be frozen from 2011, and state pensions would also be limited. These cuts are in addition to a 50 billion-euro austerity package announced in January.

But its unclear how much effect a general strike would have outside the public sector. Only 16 percent of Spanish workers as a whole are represented by a union.

Editor: Martin Kuebler