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September 2010, Week 4

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Tue, 28 Sep 2010 20:39:56 -0400
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Austerity Whips Up Anger, Protests Mount in Europe

Agence France Presse via Common Dreams 
September 28, 2010

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/09/28-8

BRUSSELS - Painful cuts by overspending EU countries come
head to a head with mounting social anger on Wednesday when
labour leaders call angry workers onto streets right across
the continent.

Set for its largest Europe-wide protest for a decade is
Brussels where labour leaders are planning to bring 100,000
people from 30 countries to say "No to austerity!"

"We will demonstrate to voice our concern over the economic
and social context, which will be compounded by austerity
measures," John Monks, general secretary of the European
Trade Union Confederation.

The protest, the biggest such march since 2001 when 80,000
people spilled into the EU capital, is being held to coincide
with a plan to fine governments running up deficits.

Detailed proposals are due to be released that day by the 27-
nation bloc's executive arm, the European Commission, with
the continent's finance ministers also gathering in Brussels
this week.

Millions of jobs fell off the European map in the global
downturn and many more look set to be squeezed as governments
axe public spending.

"This is a crucial day for Europe," said Monks, "because our
governments, virtually all of them, are about to embark on
solid cuts in public expenditures.

"They're doing this at a time where the economy is very close
to recession, and almost certainly you'll see the economy go
back into recession as the effect of these cuts take place."

In Spain, where trade unions have called a general strike on
Wednesday, unemployment has more than doubled, with one in
five workers jobless in July.

Madrid in consequence is looking at a drastic overhaul of its
labour legislation to ease flexi-time and hiring and firing.
Pensions are frozen, wages cut for civil servants and VAT
taxes on the rise.

But elsewhere labour leaders are equally concerned. At a
glance: The human cost of the crisis in Europe

Portugal's leading labour confederation, the CGTP, which is
close to the communists, has called protests in Lisbon and
Porto and hopes for more than 10,000 participants.

Poland's main unions, Solidarity and OPZZ, expect "several
thousand" at a protest outside government headquarters.

Similar marches are scheduled in Greece, Ireland, Italy,
Latvia and Serbia, with labour leaders across the board
clamouring for growth and protesting the injustice of workers
paying for the errors of the financial sector.

"Those responsible for this crisis, the banks, the financial
markets and the ratings agencies are all too quick in asking
for help from states and public budgets and today want the
workers to pay for their debts," said French labour leader
Jean-Claude Mailly, who heads the FO union.

But while Europe tries to clean up its post-recession books,
a backlash has begun among voters focused on vast anticipated
numbers of public sector job cuts.

The worker backlash was clearly seen in Britain, where Labour
unions, lawmakers and party members handed their leadership
to left-leaning Ed Miliband -- in a surprise, last-minute
defeat for his better-known, more centrist brother and former
foreign secretary David.

"We're a rich part of the world," said Monks.

"We're going to keep this campaign going, fight for growth,
fight for jobs, fight to protect social Europe. Don't go down
the austerity route." © 2010 AFP

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