MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish workers blocked streets and railways in Madrid on Friday in protests against new austerity measures they said hurt ordinary people more than the bankers and politicians they blame for the economic crisis.
As the Spanish government approved the deepest cuts in 30 years, including a second round of wage cuts and reduced benefits for civil servants, Spain’s main unions called on public workers to strike in September.
The date of the strike will be announced at a later stage, the unions said in a statement.
Traffic was blocked in central Madrid for hours as hundreds of public workers - many wearing black t-shirts in support of striking miners or green ones for public school teachers - shouted: “Cuts for bankers, not workers” outside ministries and public offices.
Workers for state railway Renfe blocked train tracks in Madrid on several occasions throughout the day. Employees of local public TV station TeleMadrid blocked a highway outside the city.
Several policemen took the unusual step of joining the protests.
“Civil servants tolerated the first round of cuts because we wanted to show solidarity, but this has reached a limit,” said Pedro, a 41-year-old nurse. “It can’t always be the same people paying the price.”
It was the third consecutive day of protests since Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled fresh austerity measures designed to slash 65 billion euros from the public deficit by 2014 as he tries to dodge a full state bailout after requesting a European rescue for the country’s ailing banks in June.
Crippled banks, highly-indebted regions and the prospect of a recession continuing beyond 2013 sent Spain’s borrowing costs to levels close to unsustainable and pushed the country closer to following Greece, Ireland and Portugal in seeking external help.
More than one hundred public workers also gathered, whistling and booing, outside the presidential palace where Rajoy’s ministers convened to approve the new budget plan.
Additional reporting by Andres Gonzalez; Writing By Tracy Rucinski and Julien Toyer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy