MADRID—Spain’s two largest unions, the Workers' Commissions (CCOO) and the General Union of Workers (UGT), are calling on workers to stage a general strike on Sept. 29 in opposition to labor reform measures proposed by President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The strike will be part of a coordinated day of action by unions across Europe to stand against austerity their countries plan.
Before the main strike date, two warmup strikes were also announced at a press conference on June 15. The first will take place on June 30, in Spain’s autonomous regions, and the second will be a large-scale rally in Madrid on Sept. 9.
The unions want to "work toward a massive response,” they say, as opposed lackluster public sector employee strike held on June 8, where the turnout was lower than organizers expected.
The Spanish unions say that the general strike is not designed to force a regime change, but rather its goal is to achieve a change in economic policy. Some of the most unpopular elements of the government’s plan include relaxing rules to allow companies in economic trouble to fire employees more easily, and a 5 percent pay cut for civil servants.
Union leaders Candido Mendez, UGT, and Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, CCOO, have stated that they consider the president’s reforms to be a "useless sacrifice" for Spanish society that will delay ecomic recovery and increase the country’s 20 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the eurozone.
President Zapatero, now in his sixth year in office, is so far the first president in Spain’s 30 years of democracy not to face a general strike. Until now, he has enjoyed unconditional support from the country’s main unions, despite their having questioned certain social policy decisions. But the romance ended after Zapatero proposed labor reform measures that unions consider damaging to the rights of workers, as well as regressive, and useless in terms of fixing Spain’s labor market woes.