They are calling it the European Day of Action and Solidarity against Austerity. Today is said to be the first time strike action has been held simultaneously across four countries: general strikes in Spain and Portugal and ad hoc stoppages Greece and Italy.
As well as strikes in southern Europe, demonstrations to show solidarity are planned for many other countries including France and Germany.
In Madrid, union leader Candido Méndez told the crowd that their situation has its roots in European politics. “The policy has been imposed on us by the Commission,” he said, “who are following orders from Berlin and the head of the Spanish government not only accepts this but takes it even further.
Local transport, airports and schools are affected.
In total, 40 trade union organisations from 23 countries are involved in the day’s events.
In Portugal, this is the second general strike this year. “We have begun this fight not only for the rights of workers,” says a union representative, “but also to defend the rights of generations to come, for the rights of our children, we are also fighting for the future of our country.”
Municipal workers have also come out on strike in Portugal. The country is said to be going through its worst slump since the 1970s.