As the parliament voted on a new package of 65 billion euros of spending cuts and tax hikes, civil servants staged protests in several points of Madrid and other Spanish cities.
More than 80 cities called marches by trade unions on Thursday night. Photo. EFE
Spanish public sector workers stepped up their demonstrations against the centre-right government's latest austerity measures on Thursday (July 19), showing the country's protest movement was thickening after over a week of spontaneous actions.
As the parliament voted on a new package of 65 billion euros ($79.38 billion) of spending cuts and tax hikes, civil servants staged protests in several points of Madrid and other Spanish cities.
They stopped road traffic and invaded ministries ahead of marches in more than 80 cities called by trade unions on Thursday night (1830gmt).
In Madrid, about 300 civil servants blocked the traffic outside their ministries and took their protest into the Ministry of Public Works. Others used their daily coffee break to protest outside the ruling People's Party (PP) headquarters.
Civil servants face a pay cut of between 3 and 7 percent after their Christmas bonus was cancelled. Many feel they are bearing the burden of the austerity cuts.
On Thursday, they called for the resignation of Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. "We are asking for the resignation of Rajoy and the government because we think the cuts are inadequate and unfair. Public workers are not responsible for the crisis and we think you could have budget cuts elsewhere before cutting our salaries," Ursula Montes said.
"We are reaching the point where we just can't take it anymore. We are about to loose 300 euros a month. How can we pay the mortgage or the food ?" Jose, an employee of the justice ministry who declined to give his surname said.
Since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced new austerity steps last week, demonstrations are a daily occurrence and include groups who previously shied away from them.
While anti-government protests are not unusual under right-wing governments in Spain because the PP is seen to side with the business community rather than trade unions, public workers had so far accepted with a sense of resignation several cuts or freezes in they salary over the last three years.
But the latest round of belt-tightening has spurred widespread anger. For the government, cutting down public expenditure is the only way ahead.
Spain economy minister Luis de Guindos was in parliament to defend the latest austerity measures. Spain agreed with its European Union partners to a deficit of 6.3 percent of GDP in 2012 and 4.5 percent in 2013. Spain would meet its EU's deficit targets of below 3 percent of GDP in 2014.
"Achieving this objective will require an unprecedented fiscal effort. In the next three years, the adjustment of the deficit in structural terms will reach 7 point of the gross domestic product. This means a huge effort because we have to compensate the cuts that haven't been made before," de Guindos told parliament.
Spain slipped in to recession for the second time since 2009 in the first quarter and its unemployment rate is more than double the EU average.
Its high public deficit has prompted a slew of spending cuts and tax hikes, including a 3 percentage point hike in value-added tax (VAT) rates.