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Berlin protests

May 16, 2009

Up to 100,000 protestors have marched through the heart of Berlin, demanding the government do more to protect jobs during the recession. The rally was part of a series of protests across the European Union.

Protestors with banners
The protests came only two weeks after massive demonstrations on May 1Image: AP

Trade union officials said 100,000 people took part in Berlin's protest, while police put the total at "several tens of thousands".

The rally was organized by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) as part of a series of four demonstrations across Europe with the motto "Fight the crisis. Europe needs a new social deal".

Amidst Germany's deepest recession since World War Two, unemployment has risen consecutively in the past 6 months and forecasts for the coming year are even bleaker. Demonstrators accused the government of putting big business first, and not doing enough to protect the people.

"Change is overdue"

DGB's head, Michael Sommer, told the crowd of protestors that "if we don't act now, there will be consequences for democracy and social peace".

"A change is overdue," he said, calling for provisions to be introduced that would ensure there will be no repeat of the current financial crisis.

Berthold Huber, chairman of IG Metall, the engineering workers' union, called for a "protective shield" for employees.

Frank Bsirske, from the union ver.di, appealed for Berlin to introduce a third economic stimulus package -- to add to its previous stimulus packages which, combined, are worth 81 billion euros ($US 110 billion).

SPD politician, Franz Muentefering
SPD politician Franz Muentefering wanted to show his support to German workersImage: AP

This suggestion, however, was dismissed by Franz Muentefering, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party.

Instead, Muentefering, who was the highest profile government politician to join the protests, told the demonstrators, "we are here to oppose international financial capitalism".

"We must do all we can at the moment to protect jobs," he said.

Almost 300,000 people in Germany have lost their jobs since the US investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in September 2008, and the country's gross domestic product is falling to record levels.

Protestors united across Europe

The rallies began on Thursday when up to 50,000 turned out for a protest in Madrid. It was followed by a march in Brussels on Friday, and an estimated 20,000 rallied in Prague on Saturday.

In Brussels, the head of the European Trade Union Confederation, John Monks, told the demonstrators that a model "that comes with a social safety net" is needed.

"It offers a fall-back whenever the greed and excesses of financial capitalism give individuals a real battering," he added, urging politicians to "take active, ambitious, coordinated, social measures".

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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