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General strike on Wednesday: 14N

November 12, 2012 – 1:43 pm

This Wednesday, 14 November, there is a 24-hour general strike across Spain – the second this year. But not just Spain; trade unions across much of Europe are urging their members to show anger at governments which are making lives impossible, on a pan-European day of action organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

They’re calling it a “European Day of Action and Solidarity”, and this is their statement: “The ETUC strongly opposes the austerity measures which are plunging Europe into economic stagnation, recession, and dismantling the European social model. These measures, far from restoring confidence, are only aggravating imbalances and creating injustices.”

Austerity measures are causing economic hardships to families all over the continent, and countries which are definitely taking part in the walk-out include Portugal and Greece, but also possibly France, Belgium, Italy, Cyprus and Malta - the big-hitters and the tiddlers too.

Funcionarios (public sector employees) are always vocal about expressing their discontent with slashed salaries, including teachers in the state system, who believe that the entire education system is being severely compromised not only by massive budget cuts, but by the new “Ley Wert”. This will see private companies brought in to carry out extensive (and expensive) evaluations of both students and teachers throughout the educative process, starting as early as the 2013/14 academic year – in other words, from next September.

Other bugbears include proposals to raise the retirement age and further changes to employment laws, though some fear that employees will not join the industrial action out of fear of losing their jobs – Rajoy’s new legislation has already made it much easier for employers to get rid of workers than previously.

In terms of the immediate effects of this week’s strike on those of living in Spain, many shops will be closed (although some supermarkets remain open, including Mercadona), and transport will be disrupted, wil skeleton services – long waits, packed buses and trains. Hospitals will be running on minimum staff.

The big question for parents here, is whether schools will be open – the best bet is to check with your own school to find out what their stance is. Each teacher is free to decide whether they go to work that day, as I understand, although obviously their union (and colleagues) will be trying to convince them to stay at home in solidarity.

In terms of demonstrations, marches and rallies, all the big cities will have them, and their centres will most likely be packed with protestors. While most of these will pass off calmly, it’s probably best to avoid these areas, especially with small children, unless you specifically want to see/support the action yourself.

I wish I could offer more detailed information as to what will be open, but it’s hard to find reliable facts, and local situations may be different. It’s best to ask around where you live, and stock up on food to avoid extra journeys.

For those of you on Twitter, the hashtags are #14N, #14NHuelgaGeneral and #14NRiseUp – one of the slogans is “People of Europe Rise Up!” – shades of Bob Marley.

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