June 22, 2011 / 9:09 PM / 9 years ago

Factbox: Strikes and protests hit Europe in wake of austerity

Public disgruntlement over austerity — including curbs on early retirement, tax rises and cuts in benefits and wages — has erupted into strikes and protests. Here are some details of unrest around Europe:

* GREECE — Bank and utility workers, public sector contractors and even doctors have taken to the streets. Private sector workers blame the bloated public sector, civil servants blame tax cheats and many Greeks blame corrupt politicians for the country’s financial problems.

— Protesters besieged the parliament building in Athens during a vote of confidence in the Greek cabinet early on Wednesday, shouting insults at politicians and shining hundreds of green laser lights at the building and at police. They held up a mock gallows with several nooses.

— The crowd mostly dispersed afterwards, but police in full riot gear fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse a smaller group of youths continuing to protest. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.

— Greek protesters threw petrol bombs and had clashed with police on June 15 at buildings housing the finance ministry.

— On June 9 workers on the Athens metro and bus service staged a strike. Staff from companies earmarked for privatization also held a protest march, before the latest in more than two weeks of nightly demonstrations outside parliament.

SPAIN - Dozens of “los indignados” (the indignant), demonstrating against high unemployment and economic stagnation, camped outside parliament to protest as lawmakers debated amendments to the Socialist government’s wage reform bill, meant to make the economy more competitive. The reforms were decreed into law by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s cabinet on June 10 and have been criticized by both unions and business groups.

— Last week politicians in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain were forced to enter parliament by helicopter or under police escort as protests grew against heavy cuts needed to slash its deficit.

— The head of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, was flown in by police helicopter after up to 2,000 people blockaded the main entrance, before the parliament began debating a budget that aims to cut public spending by 10 percent.

— Last month, tens of thousands of demonstrators, angry over unemployment and austerity measures, packed Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square before local elections. Demonstrators have filled Spain’s city plazas, outraged over government austerity measures, marking a shift after years of patience over a long economic slump.

— At night the crowds on the square have swelled to up to 30,000 people. Hundreds of protesters camp out overnight and occupy the plaza during the day.

FRANCE - Solidarity with “los indignados” in Madrid has already inspired several dozen French youths to spend nights camped out at the Place de la Bastille, the Paris square where a jail was torn down during the 1789 French Revolution.

BRITAIN - Britain’s biggest civil service union said June 15 its members would join teachers and hold industrial action this month, meaning some 750,000 public sector workers will strike over the government’s pension reforms.

— Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, also said that unless the government changed its plans for public sector pensions, millions of workers could take action later this year.

— Unions, angry at the government’s massive spending cuts to address a budget deficit of around 10 percent of GDP, have vowed to stage coordinated national action in what would be Britain’s worst labor stoppages for decades.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;; editing by David Stamp

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