Thousands protest against Catalonia's austerity plan

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Thousands protest against Catalonia's austerity plan

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Tens of thousands of public sector workers have demonstrated in Barcelona against the regional Catalan government’s austerity measures.

Protests have been spreading since last summer when health workers reacted angrily to budget cuts of 10 per cent.

They have been joined by teachers, and police, fire and prison officers.

The cuts are independent of the Madrid government’s own austerity plan.

“These cuts are unfair but not inevitable. Contrary to what the government wants us to believe, there are other ways to overcome the crisis without harming the people. But for that we must use the wealth of our country and the most fortunate must pay their share,” said Joan Carlos Gallego, head of one of the largest unions, the CCOO.

The Catalan government, led by a nationalist coalition, plans pay cuts as well as selective tax rises.

Madrid, said to have long turned a blind eye to the spending of highly autonomous regions in areas like health and education, is adding to the pressure to tighten belts.

The central government is anxious to bring Spain’s deficit down and make sure the country does not get dragged into the debt crisis that has forced other countries to seek financial bailouts.