Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Workers throughout Europe Synchronize Anti-Austerity Strikes in Display of Solidarity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Workers throughout Europe Synchronize Anti-Austerity Strikes in Display of Solidarity

Article excerpt

MADRID -- Workers across Europe mounted coordinated protests Wednesday against government austerity policies in a time of economic malaise.

In Spain and Portugal, workers staged general strikes. Unions in Greece, Italy, France and Belgium joined in protests and work stoppages to show solidarity with striking workers elsewhere.

The breadth of the demonstrations, which affected scores of cities, reflected widespread unhappiness with high unemployment, slowing growth and worsening economic prospects in Europe, and the resistance that its governments confront as they push plans for more belt-tightening. Occasional clashes with police were reported in some cities.

Among those striking Wednesday were railroad workers in Belgium; airline, autoworkers and teachers in Spain; civil servants in Italy; and transit workers in Portugal. Union leaders called the coordinated actions historic.

Government officials generally played down the disruptions caused by the actions and said their countries had no alternative but to cut spending and reduce their deficits. Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said his government "is convinced that the path we have taken is the only possible way out."

Even so, Spain's heavy industry and large parts of its transportation network were stalled by the general strike, the second since conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gained power last December. With unemployment in Spain at 25 percent, Mr. Rajoy has presented a tough austerity budget for next year.

Spanish police by late afternoon reported 82 arrests and 34 wounded, including 18 police, mainly amid violence on picket lines across the nation, but also after clashes in central Madrid.

About 700 flights to and from Spain were canceled Wednesday, adding to growing uncertainty about the future of Iberia, the Spanish national airline. Its management announced this month that Iberia needed to lay off one-quarter of its workers to survive.

The strike also severely disrupted automobile production at Spanish factories owned by Nissan, Volkswagen and other carmakers. With security guards and other workers off the job in Granada, one of Spain's biggest tourism attractions, the Alhambra palace, was closed to visitors. …

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