Spanish workers brave the chill in protest at austerity
Thousands of protesters braved freezing weather across Spain on Saturday to voice their opposition to the government's austerity measures and plans to raise the legal retirement age from 65 to 67 in the new year.
AFP - Tens of thousands of Spanish workers staged strikes in 40 cities Saturday to protest state plans to up the retirement age to slash public deficit, the highest in the eurozone after Greece and Ireland.
The strikers gathered in central Madrid carrying red flags and holding placards such as "No to retirement at 67", police said giving the estimates, adding they were essentially from the main UGT and CCOO unions.
The government aims to trim the public deficit from 11.1 percent of annual output last year to 6.0 percent in 2011 and three percent, the European Union limit, in 2013.
Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, the leader of the CCOO syndicate, threated a repeat of a September 29 general strike in January when Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero unveils reforms which will see the retirement age increase by two years.
The government will also change the way pensions are calculated, as part of plans to soothe market fears that Spain could be dragged under by the tide of debt that has already drowned Greece and Ireland.
Adding to the concern over the nation's finances and the potential implications for the eurozone, public debt rose to a 10-year high in the third quarter while bad bank loans struck a 14-year-high.