June 29, 2010 / 7:15 AM / 9 years ago

Striking workers force closure of Madrid metro

MADRID (Reuters) - Striking workers protesting a 5 percent austerity pay cut forced the closure of the metro in the Spanish capital of Madrid on Tuesday after they flouted minimum service agreements in a second day of industrial action.

Subway workers protest against wage cuts in central Madrid June 28, 2010. Workers on the Spanish underground rail system in Madrid began a three-day strike on Monday to protest against wage cuts which form part of the government's austerity plan to cut its massive budget deficit. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Unions are angry over public sector pay cuts designed to help cut Spain’s budget deficit which ballooned to 11.2 percent last year from a pre-crisis surplus.

Spain’s Socialists aim to save 15 billion euros ($18.51 billion) by, amongst other moves, slashing civil servants’ pay by 5 percent.

While the measures were not originally aimed at public company workers such as transport, Madrid’s regional conservative government extended the salary reductions to the metro employees.

“There is no service on any line,” said a spokeswoman for Metro de Madrid.

Under Spanish law, workers are supposed to provide agreed minimum levels of services, which kept Madrid’s underground rail service running about 50 percent of trains on the first day.

On Monday evening, an assembly of workers decided to make Tuesday a total walkout in order to bring the country’s capital to a standstill, a union spokesman said.

Buses were crammed early on Tuesday morning in the Spanish capital as workers sought alternative routes to work.

This is the first time that Madrid Metro workers have broken minimum service agreements in the last two decades, Spanish media reported.

The development is a sign of increasing union anger and comes after a public sector strike on June 8 and ahead of a general strike called for the end of September to protest pay cuts, pension freezes and a labor law reform that unions say makes firing workers cheaper.

Greek workers were also due to stage a new 24-hour strike on Tuesday that will gauge public discontent with government austerity measures, including a radical pension reform aimed at helping the country solve its huge debt crisis.

Reporting by Blanca Rodriguez, writing by Sarah Morris; editing by Ralph Boulton

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