Tens of thousands of members of Spain’s two biggest trade unions have marched in Madrid to protest at the level of unemployment there – currently close to 18 per cent.
Spain has been hit particularly hard by the financial crisis, which has crippled industry, particularly construction.
The leader of the United Left, Cayo Lara said: “(Prime Minister) Zapatero should be aware that Spain is not the country of wonders. It’s a country with a lot of problems and he hasn’t found a proper way to handle the crisis, a way that should take leftist measures.”
General Motors worker Luis Tejedor said: “We need to defend our rights together. We mustn’t emerge from this crisis as losers, which has happened to many on previous occasions.”
The socialist administration wants unions, management and government to get together in the New Year with a view to reaching agreement by April.
The Spanish Minister of Public Works Jose Blanco said: “We need to come out of this crisis united, with the effort of everyone, and using social negotiation to create more jobs.”
The government is keen on remoulding Spain’s economy like Germany’s – allowing companies to put employees on part-time work. German unemployment is less than half of Spain’s. But that has not stopped some demonstrators calling for a general strike.