Anti-austerity strikes sweep across Europe

Nov. 14, 2012 at 8:08 AM
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LISBON, Portugal, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Unions staged general strikes across the European Union Wednesday to protest austerity measures they say are driving up joblessness and tamping down growth.

Before the work stoppages, Armenio Carlos, general secretary of Portugal's biggest union confederation, said the country's second 24-hour general strike this year was to protest the "exploitation and impoverishment" resulting from austerity policies, the Financial Times reported.

Portugal and other bailed-out countries were suffering under a form of "financial colonization," Carlos said as he called on the Portuguese government to renegotiate the terms of its $99.3 billion rescue package.

In both Portugal and Spain, schools were closed, public transit ground to a halt and air travel was disrupted, the Financial Times said.

In Portugal, more than 200 flights were canceled and hospitals were limited to essential services. Ports, courts and government services also were disrupted.

The Spanish Interior Ministry reported "isolated incidents" resulted in 62 arrests and 34 injuries.

Unions in Greece and Italy planned work stoppages of several hours. Marches and demonstrations were planned for France and other countries.

The Daily Telegraph reported this year's unemployment rate is expected to reach 10.5 percent in the European Union and 11.3 percent within the euro zone, both record levels.

Coordinating the strikes and protests that involve 40 unions in 23 European countries, the European Trade Union Confederation in Brussels said austerity was a "total dead end" that "must be abandoned," the Times reported.

"In some countries, people's exasperation is reaching a peak," ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol said. "We need urgent solutions to get the economy back on track, not stifle it with austerity. Europe's leaders are wrong not to listen to the anger of the people who are taking to the streets."

Much of Italy was idle Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters marched and rallied in Rome, Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence, Palermo and dozens of other Italian cities. Three police officers in Rome were injured when protesters tried to break through police lines to reach the prime minister's official residence, the Telegraph said.

In France, the country's five main unions were staging 130 marches around the country "for employment, solidarity in Europe and against austerity," union officials said. The leaders of the country's two main unions united for the first time since Socialist President Francois Hollande assumed control.

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