Today sees only the sixth general strike in Spain since the restoration of democracy, called by the country’s two largest unions to protest against the Socialist government’s austerity policies.
These concentrate on reducing the state deficit by freezing pensions, cutting public sector wages and enacting labour reforms.
While results appear to be coming in, with a 42 percent drop in the deficit this year, the labour reforms have angered the unions the most.
“We are not going to respect the minimum services that have not been agreed. We cannot be responsible for that,” said the UGT’s leader in Madrid, José Ricardo Martínez.
The transport sector could be badly hit, which may amplify the strike’s effects as many may not bother to try to travel to work. One in five jobless polls suggest many feel the strike is justified, yet the same polls also suggest most Spaniards feel austerity is inevitable.
One potential flashpoint is in the north and northwest, where the subsidised mining sector is under even more pressure from EU free trade and environment laws, and where coal miners have been protesting for weeks over unpaid wages.