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

Somalia: No Popular Elections in 2016

In interview Wednesday with VOA, President Mohamud says 'one person, one vote' elections will not be possible due to continuing insecurity More

Scientists Predict Climate Change Will Increase Child Malnutrition

Public health expert in Germany says that by 2050, 25 million more children's lives will be put at risk because of lack of nutrients tied to climate change More

Erdogan in China Amid Tensions on Uighurs, Missile System

Turkey's president has criticized China's heavy-handed policies toward Uighurs in violence-plagued Xinjiang region, where China says it is fighting foreign-backed separatists 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs