Spain’s first general strike in eight years began on Wednesday in protest at the government’s economic reforms. Unions, which represent 16 percent of the workforce, say three million people will march through Madrid.
Public transport faces major disruption with only minimum services running. At least 60 percent of international flights are expected to be grounded.
Similar protests are being held across the continent amid anger over tough austerity measures being enacted by European governments. Protesters say it is unfair they are being made to pay for mistakes made by those working in the financial sector.
In Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has cut public wages, frozen pensions and loosened the country’s labour laws to make it easier for companies to hire and fire. He wants to slash the eurozone’s third-largest budget deficit 11.1 percent last year to six percent in 2011.
Zapatero says the measures are necessary to restore confidence.
Just as someone with a large overdraft and massive debts would struggle to get cheap credit, Spanish borrowing costs shot up prior to the government unveiling its plans.
Investors fear the country could be heading for a Greek-style debt crisis if no reforms are carried out and no cuts are made to public spending.