Civil servants protest as Spanish austerity measures bite
Spanish civil servants took to the streets yesterday in protest as the government approved sweeping new austerity measures that include wage cuts and tax increases.
The government is under pressure to get its public finances on track, amid concerns in the markets over the state of the country’s banks and the wider economy.
“Spain is going through one of its most dramatic moments,” Deputy Prime Minister Saenz de Santamaria said after a cabinet meeting at which sales tax hikes and spending cuts were approved.
Admitting that the austerity measures were “neither simple, nor easy, nor popular”, she said the government would try to enact the measures “with the maximum justice and equity”.
The conservative government has come under mounting criticism that the austerity measures are hitting the middle- and working-classes the hardest.
“The government should go after the big companies that don’t pay tax and bankers that have run this country to the ground,” said Pablo Gonzalez, 52, who works for the Madrid regional government. “Instead, we have to pay.”
The aim of the latest package of measures is to chop €65 billion (£51bn) off the budget deficit through 2015, the biggest deficit-reduction plan in recent Spanish history.
The latest bout of austerity is prompting widespread opposition. In Madrid, several hundred government workers blocked traffic briefly in different parts of the city. In Valencia, several hundred justice ministry workers shouted, “Hands up, this is a stick-up” at a protest rally.
The civil servants – whose wages were cut 5 per cent on average in 2010’s first round of austerity cuts – are usually paid 14 times a year. The government is now axing an extra payment made just before Christmas.
The prime minister, his cabinet and lawmakers will also suffer the cut. At the local, regional and central level, there are around three million public servants in Spain.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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