Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Spain on Sunday against reforms to the labour market they fear will destroy workers’ rights and spending cuts they say are destroying the welfare state.
Organizers, including the two largest unions Comisiones Obreras and UGT, said as many as half a million people joined the protest in 57 towns and cities, although Spanish police gave no official estimate.
In Madrid, one of the largest protests since the economic crisis began almost five years ago filled the wide boulevards from the Atocha train station up to the central Sol square with loud but peaceful marchers of all ages.
“Contracts are getting worse every year. They say they want to invest in the future while cutting research budgets. They’re not looking to the future but to the next election with cuts dictated from Brussels,” university researcher Nacho Foche, 27, said.
Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the developed world at 23 percent and many Spaniards fear granting businesses greater powers to lay off workers will prompt a wave of redundancies and new contracts without rights.
“There has to be a general strike. They said they were cutting workers rights to create more work. They’ve cut rights, but not said how they plan to create jobs,” teacher Alberto Carrillo, 48, said.
“Before we were privileged, but now we’re having trouble even paying our gas bills.”
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