Protests become way of life in Spanish recession
By Raquel Castillo Lopez
MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish workers are increasingly walking off the job to protest wage reductions and privatizations by the government as it tackles a steep public deficit that last year threatened to bankrupt the country.
Judges, garbage workers, doctors and bus drivers are among those involved in a wave of disruptive strikes and demonstrations as workers lose patience with the centre-right government's spending cuts after four years of economic crisis.
Demonstrations have become a daily event in the capital and other major cities in the biggest social upheaval Spain has seen since the transition to democracy in the 1970s.
"The government has put the country on the path to ruin. They are taking away all of our benefits and our purchasing power," said Francisco Garcia, a cleaner and union leader at the General Hospital of Alicante on the Mediterranean coast.
Garcia and his co-workers went on strike for 17 days in January to protest two months of not being paid by the Valencia regional government. The strike - which led to reports of unsanitary conditions - was just one of many recent walk-outs.
In the southern city of Granada, garbage haulers were on strike for two weeks in January to protest cuts in their hours and pay. The strike ended on Sunday, but only a quarter of the accumulated trash has been picked up.
"It's disgusting, there are rats in the street and areas you can't even walk because of the piles of garbage," said Jorge, 50, employee at a bar in Granada, near the famous Moorish palace La Alhambra.
Adding to the outrage is the up-to 100 billion euros in public funds going to bail out banks that loaned recklessly during the property boom while tens of thousands of Spaniards have been evicted from their homes after bank foreclosure. Continued...