Spain ground to a halt during a general strike on Thursday with thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to protest against spending cuts. In Barcelona police reportedly fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd as trouble broke out.
AFP - Tens of thousands of protesters packed central Madrid to support a general strike Tuesday, venting their anger over labour reforms and deep spending cuts.
Demonstrators, brandishing a sea of red flags of Spain's major UGT and CCOO unions, marched down the Spanish capital's main streets towards the central Puerta del Sol square.
Rubber bullets fired at demonstrators
Spanish police fired rubber bullets Thursday to disperse a crowd in Barcelona after bins were set ablaze on the sidelines of demonstrations backing a general strike.
Officers shot rubber bullets into the ground so they would ricochet into people's legs as a fire blazed, television pictures showed. Police acted because of "violent incidents", a regional government spokesman said. (AFP)
One of the protesters, 35-year-old automobile salesman Jose Luis Rodriguez, said he had chosen to lose a day's pay to defend his rights by striking for the first time in his life.
"This strike day is going to cost me 60 euros ($80). It is not much compared to what they might take from me tomorrow with the reform. They can throw me into the street," he charged.
"They are attacking workers' rights. If we don't go into the streets they won't know we're against the reform."
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government says the new labour law, which makes it cheaper to lay off staff and easier to cut salaries, is needed to attack Spain's 22.85-percent jobless rate.
The government predicts the unemployment rate, already the highest among industralised nations, will rise to 24.3 percent this year as another 630,000 people lose their jobs.
But unions say the economy, not the law, is to blame for Spain's employment woes.
Spain on strike
Spanish people poured into the streets today to protest against the labour reforms and spending cuts announced by the government of Mariano Rajoy. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
The strikers were relatively few in number in the morning and moved in groups to encourage open shops to close their doors. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
At around 6pm the numbers swelled when hundreds of students left their universities and headed in to the streets of Valencia. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
Thousands of protesters gathered in the town centre before marching on the building housing the representatives of Spain's central government. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
Irene (centre of the picture) protested to denounce the corruption of Valencia’s regional government. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
Numerous workers threatened by reforms to labour laws also joined the protests. Berta, Anna and Antonia work at a local hospital. They complain that their salaries have been frozen for three years and fear losing their jobs. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
Teresa, a 55-year-old teacher, is concerned budget cuts will harm the quality of education in the country’s schools. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
Students Paolo and Toni were protesting against police violence in previous student demonstrations. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
Maria-Jose and Anna are primary school teachers and are worried about the drop in resources for state education. They carry the red, yellow and violet flag of the Spanish Republic of 1931 – 1939. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
The budget cuts are felt even harsher in Valencia, a city saddled with debt after funding such grand projects as the Palace of Arts before the 2008 financial crisis hit hard. (Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil)
"I hope this demonstration will be of some use, that the reform will be changed. Today dismissing someone is almost free," complained 38-year-old unemployed saleswoman Maria Jose Velasco.
Spain's biggest unions called the 24-hour strike over the labour reform, urging the government to enter into negotiations and find a compromise over the new labour law.
After a day of patchy participation in the general strike, in part because of an agreement guaranteeing minimum services in public transport, unions have called evening protests in about 100 cities and towns.
Date created : 2012-03-29