MADRID – One of Spain’s two biggest labor federations announced Thursday a general strike by public employees on June 2 to protest government plans to cut their pay by 5 percent as part of an austerity package.
The walkout will follow a series of marches and protests set to begin next week, the UGT, which is affiliated with the ruling Socialists, said in a statement.
The plan presented Wednesday by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero includes the pay cut for public employees, a suspension of cost of living adjustments for most pensioners and an end to payments for the birth or adoption of a child.
Zapatero’s administration says the measures will reduce public outlays by $19 billion during the 2010-2011 period and help Spain meet the goal of reducing its budget deficit – now more than 11 percent of gross domestic product – to 3 percent of GDP by 2013.
The general strike aims to “confront the situation generated by the unprecedented aggression which signifies failure to comply with a functioning accord that already contemplated the economic crisis scenario,” the UGT said, referring to the social pact among workers, employers and the government.
The UGT said it will urge other labor organizations to join protests planned for May 20, when the lower house of Parliament is due to debate the executive order mandating public sector pay cuts.
The other major union federation, Comisiones Obreras, has not ruled out calling for a general strike to express what its leader, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, described as labor’s “absolute disagreement” with the austerity measures.
Toxo issued the warning at a joint press conference with UGT chief Candido Mendez following their meeting Thursday with Zapatero.
Statistics released Wednesday indicate the Spanish economy emerged from recession in the first quarter, but the jobless rate remains above 20 percent and the recovery is expected to be sluggish. EFE