Kamis, 29 Maret 2012

News items and photos of the Spanish General Strike....


A truck is escorted by riot police officers, at the start of a general strike in Malaga
A truck is escorted by riot police officers as union picketers try to stop it at the entrance of Malaga's main food warehouse, at the start of a nationwide general strike. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters
9.49am: Spain's transport network has been badly hit by today's strike.
Spanish airline Iberia (which merged with British Airways in 2010), saysit has cancelled more than 400 flights. Another 44 Ryanair flights have been grounded, while easyJet cancelled 28 flights.
Ahead of today's action, transport employees had agreed to offer a minimum level of service. That meant that around 25% of buses and a third of train services were expected to operate.
9.37am: The two main unions, Comisiones Obreras and UGT, have announced that the general strike had "practically paralysed" factories during the night shift. They also claimed that 85% of workers in the food sector were also taking part (but, as we reported at 8.36am, we won't know the full story for some time).
9.20am: And here's a less peaceful photo, showing a man bleeding while taking part in this morning's protests in Madrid.
A man is seen bleeding after being struck by police during a national strike in Madrid.Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images
According to the photographer who took the photo, the man had been hit in the face by police.
9.11am: Back to Spain, and there have been peaceful protests this morning outside the Gregorio Maranon Hospital in Madrid.
People demonstrate in front of the Gregorio Maranon Hospital in Madrid during a national strike.

8.36am: Giles Tremlett, our correspondent in Madrid, tells me that it is impossible to say at this stage how 'successful' the Spanish general strike is. But two key indicators suggest there is more support than at a similar event 18 months ago.
Giles writes:

The first is that electricity consumption is down by more than 20% – proof that things are slowing down around the country.
The other is that unions say more people have stopped work this morning than in September 2010, when the socialist administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had to cope with a similar strike.
Zapatero himself considered that strike a crucial moment in the dramatic fall in popular support for his socialists, who were ousted at a general election a year later.
Given that regional elections in southern Andalucia at the weekend saw a fall in votes for current prime minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative People's party (PP), it is safe to say that we have reached a turning point in support for the government as it celebrates 100 days in power.
Tomorrow's budget, expected to be one of the fiercest seen in austerity Europe, will mark the end of his toughest week in power.
8.31am: El Pais also reports that Esperanza Aguirre, Spain minister for education and culture, has denounced attempts on social networks to create public disorder today [a comment which reminds us of last summer's riots in the UK]
Update: we're still trying to get a full report of Aguirre's comments...
8.21am: According to El Pais, there have been 58 arrests so far in Spain, with seven policeman injured (my colleague James Gard reports).
A demonstrator is arrested by police agents after he tried to stop an urban bus in Madrid, Spain.A demonstrator is arrested by police agents after he tried to stop an urban bus in Madrid this morning. Photograph: Alberto Di Lolli/AP
Electricity demand is reportedly down a quarter on a normal working day. Nissan and Seat car factories in Catalonia are locked down. Student protestors have blocked one of the main roads into Madrid, the A6, causing a big traffic jam (click on the link below to see).
8.15am: The Spanish general strike comes just a day before prime minister Mariano Rajoy announces a new austerity budget.
As my colleague Giles Tremlett reported a few days ago, Rajoy must announce up to up to €40bn (£33.45bn) of spending cuts and taxes, three months after his victory in a general election last November.
Rajoy has also angered labour groups by introducing new legislation that makes it easier for companies to lay people off, cut wages and modify other employment conditions. This has led unions to predict enthusiastic support for today's action.
Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, head of the CCOO union, declared:
The people will say whether they are resigned to accepting the reforms.
Finance minister Cristobal Montoro, though, insists the Spanish government will not be forced into changing its plans. Montoro said:
The question here is not whether the strike is honoured by many or few but rather whether we get out of the crisis.
7.57am: And in Valencia (as in Malaga, see 7.56am) strikers also blocked the entrance to the main wholesale market (called Mercavalencia).
Trade union pickets block people who try to come into the Mercavalencia in Valencia, Spain.

Picketers in Valencia. Photograph: Kai F Rsterling/EPA
According to local reports, hundreds of members of the UGC, CCOO and CGT labor unions, blocked the entrance, and managed to prevent trucks entering the site.
Union picketers shout slogans to riot police officers at the start of a general strike in MalagaScenes in Malaga this morning. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters
7.56am: In Malaga, union members picketed outside the entrance to the city's main food warehouse, called "MercaMalaga".
7.48am: Here's another picture from outside Madrid's urban bus depot:
A demonstrator shouts slogans outside the urban bus depot in Madrid, Spain during a general strike.

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