MADRID: Spain’s main trade unions on Friday called a general strike for Nov.14, coinciding with similar work stoppages in Portugal and Greece, to protest against government-imposed austerity measures and labour reforms.
The general strike called by the Workers’ Commissions and General Workers’ unions will be the second in Spain this year. A partially successful stoppage was held on March 29.
Fernando Lezcano, the spokesman for the Workers’ Commissions, said it would be the first-ever joint general strike in Iberian neighbours Spain and Portugal.
The General Workers’ union in a statement said the strike was called to press for a change in government policy because “cuts are strangling the economy and dismantling our social model.”
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the strike would do nothing to lower unemployment, which she said was Spain’s biggest problem.
“This strike does not help either workers or the unemployed,” she said. “We do not believe the best way to create jobs is to invite people not to work.”
Spain is in its second recession in three years and has near 25 per cent unemployment. The tax hikes, spending cuts and labour reforms are aimed at convincing investors and international authorities the country can manage its finances without a need for a full-blown bailout.
Spain’s public finances have been overwhelmed by the cost of rescuing some of its banks and regional governments, many of which have suffered heavy losses in Spain’s property sector crash in 2008.
On Friday, the Balearic islands and the northern province of Asturias became the seventh and eighth regions to ask for financial help. The islands will request €355 million ($462.7 million) from the central government’s €18 billion ($23.5 billion) rescue fund for the regions, while Asturias will seek €261 billion.
Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, has asked for €5 billion, Andalusia €4.9 billion, Valencia €4.5 billion, Castilla-La Mancha €848 million, the Canary Islands €756 million and Murcia €641 million.
Meanwhile, the government of the heavily indebted eastern region of Valencia on Friday approved a measure announced in May to lay off at least 3,000 public service employees — 40 per cent of its workforce — to make savings of about €300 million ($391 million).
Unrelated, a powerful coastal storm with huge waves dragged a Polish woman to her death and left a young French man missing in northern Spain on Friday, officials said.
As the storm battered the coast of northeastern Catalonia, a big wave snatched the 37-year-old Polish woman into the waters in the holiday resort of Lloret del Mar, emergency services said. Her corpse was found nine kilometres down the coast near Blanes later in the morning.
“She was dragged away by a wave as we walked along the beach,” said an emergency services spokesman.
“Emergency services found the body of a woman in Blanes and then she was identified by her clothes and some jewellery,” he said.
The French man, identified only as a young person, disappeared after going fishing in a rocky area of the coast of Roses, about 100 kilometres further north. “Emergency services were activated in the search for the French citizen,” the spokesman said.
“He had gone fishing in an area known as the Carretera de Canyelles and according to his friend he did not return,” he added.
“This morning we found his fishing rod in a rocky area and began a search of the land and sea with helicopters and specialised vehicles,” he said.