News / Europe

In Europe, Angry Workers Protest Austerity

Protesters are pushed away by Spanish police officers during a 24-hour nationwide general strike in central Madrid November 14, 2012.
Protesters are pushed away by Spanish police officers during a 24-hour nationwide general strike in central Madrid November 14, 2012.
Al Pessin
Workers in several European countries went on strike Wednesday to protest austerity measures designed to help their governments get out of debt, but which cut their salaries, pensions and benefits. 

Angry workers chanted "strike, strike" inside Madrid’s main train station as they scuffled with police.  Outside, workers blew whistles and set off firecrackers, as commuters rode by, many on bicycles for the day.

Commuter and inter-city trains were canceled in several countries, along with flights and other forms of transport, while government services and some businesses also went idle.

  • A student holds a lighted torch during a demonstration against austerity measures in downtown Rome, November 14, 2012.
  • A demonstrator blows a horn in front of Spanish riot police during a strike against government austerity measures in Pamplona, Spain, November 14, 2012.
  • Workers from Telefonica phone company take part in a demonstration against the dismissals at their company in Barcelona, Spain, November 13, 2012.
  • Protesters march through Syntagma square in Athens with flags of Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal, November 14, 2012.
  • A woman dressed as a nun holds a board reading "marriage for everybody" as part of a demonstration against austerity in Paris, November 14, 2012.
  • A protestor lies on the ground during clashes with riot police in Madrid, Spain, November 14, 2012.
  • Demonstrators hold a banner reading 'For solidarity in Europe' in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, November 14, 2012.
  • A protester covers her head in a plastic bag, meant to show that austerity measures are suffocating Greeks, outside Parliament in Athens, November 14, 2012.
  • Demonstrators march in Porto, Portugal, November 14, 2012.
  • Riot police clash with students in downtown Rome, November 14, 2012.

“They are taking all our rights away," complained a Spanish union member who spoke for many of his co-workers.  "The banks and other business people are bringing us onto the streets, they are stealing our salaries.  We do not have any rights anymore.”

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault admonished workers to be patient in what is a global crisis, and said what is at stake is nothing less than the identity of the French nation.

“Today, this social model is in danger.  There are many things to correct, to change, to modernize and to reform.  And France will reclaim somehow its freedom and its autonomy," Ayrault said.

The one-day strike was called by the European Trade Union Confederation, which has called for more fairness as European countries work their way out of debt.  The strike drew large numbers of workers in economically hard-hit Spain and Portugal, with less-widespread strikes in France, Italy, Belgium and Greece, which has seen large protests this week over its government’s latest austerity program.

At London’s Kingston University, labor union expert and Professor Craig Phelan is sympathetic to the workers’ concerns.

“It's a sense of crisis.  It's a sense that austerity programs have not worked," Phelan said. "Trying to fight recession by simply making budget cuts hasn't been working in Africa, in South America for decades.”

Professor Phelan says the unions are right to urge governments to fight recession mainly through economic growth.  That would require borrowing more money, which the European Central Bank and other international lenders are not willing to provide without austerity.  But Professor Phelan says the political ground may be shifting.

“At this stage there is very little that can be done by political leaders," he said. "They have made this commitment, recovery through austerity, and they are kind of boxed in at this stage.  We are going to see a continuation of these protests, lower productivity levels, increasing unemployment, insecurity.  But it will lead to a change in policies in the next few years.”

That will likely sound like a long time to workers in countries that have already had several years of recession.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MuckrakerW from: USA
November 14, 2012 2:42 PM
Austerity is terrible. It means the current economic climate for the nation-state has a debt to GDP ratio of nearly 100 percent or more. Moreover, people are going to have to give up even more, meaning a standard of living akin to abject poverty lay ahead in order to bring down the debt. Austerity is worse than sequestration in America, but still both are signs that the debt and deficits, and interest on both are threatening to bring the country or nation-state to total ruin. Living below one's means when one has lived high off the hog for years, is what austerity is all about. Furthermore, inflation eats away all the money a poor person has if they have any at all. For some it means the end of the world. For others it means the world has already ended. When a nation-state reaches a level of austerity they are vulnerable to a total take over by the IMF....
www.globalbabbler.com

by: Sensi
November 14, 2012 2:11 PM
So there was 0.0001 percent of the actual workforce striking? I just love how the media take things out of proportion and spin reality. It was nothing but business as usual here in Paris...

by: Trevor from: San Diego
November 14, 2012 2:05 PM
Economies do well when manufacturing is doing well in that country or region. Eastern Asia is just out producing and creating cheaper products than Europe and USA can. Banks will only invest in growth. There is no growth in Europe because of the high cost to manufacture a "good" be it a toothbrush or a car. The only way the USA is keeping up with China, they are not though huge deficite, is new technology. Its a horrible cycle people want cheap products so they go over seas, thus loses jobs at home, thus economies go down, thus life style goes down. Stop wining and create a business or service.

by: V from: Chi Town
November 14, 2012 1:48 PM
what else is new, banks get money from the gov't and gov't steals the money from the people

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More