Civil Servants Protest in Madrid
Spanish civil servants continued their spontaneous protests on Friday, blocking Madrid's main streets, in a show of discontent at last month’s austerity measures announced by the government.
Hundreds of public sector workers gathered outside the Treasury Ministry, blowing whistles and chanting slogans against the government cuts, which will lower their salaries and increase taxes.
Pedro Pomes of the independent union of public workers in Madrid said that austerity measures were not the answer.
[Pedro Pomes, Union of Public Workers]:
"These cuts don't bring any solution to the crisis. Public workers are not the problem and we have not created this crisis, and we shouldn't have to pay for it. We understand the loss of bonus pay, the loss of benefits, the increase in working hours, the loss of days off, and the loss of negotiated gains made for temporary work, all of this has been part of a smear campaign against public workers. And you can't resolve things like this."
Since Mariano Rajoy won the elections by a landslide last year, Spain has become the new frontline of the two-and-a-half-year debt crisis and the government has implemented several packages of structural reforms and austerity measures, the latest worth 65 billion euros—or more than 80 billion US dollars—until 2014.
Civil servants, whose pay was cut by up to 7 percent when their Christmas bonus was cancelled, have used their coffee break to stage daily protests outside their offices.
In a separate demonstration, hundreds of public workers took their anger to the streets, blocking the street outside a government department complex.
Civil servant, Angel Murcia, said that everyone is suffering.
[Angel Murcia, Civil Servant]:
"They raise the price of bread for everyone, they rise the price of transport for everyone, they are raising the tax for everyone. Cuts seems to be directed just to civil servants but that is not true. The cuts affect everyone. This is a fight by those who are being trampled on by those on top, who are ruling (the country)."
Up to now, public workers had accepted several cuts or salary freezes over the last three years, with a sense of resignation.
But the latest round of belt-tightening has spurred widespread anger.