Spain was readying itself Tuesday for its second national strike against the government’s austerity drive in less than a year, as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he would stick by his policies.
The stoppage on Wednesday was called by the country’s main labor unions, CCOO and UGT, and coincides with a series of planned demonstrations and strikes on the same day across Europe in protest at policies that put cutting public deficits ahead of restoring growth.
This will be the first time in Spain that two general strikes have been held in the same year.
Rajoy said the country faced further reforms and “many battles” with a view to restoring the economy. “The Spanish economy will grow again in 2014,” he said.
In a speech delivered in Valencia, Rajoy made no direct reference to the stoppage, but said: “There is no room for easy remedies, miraculous measures and useless short cuts.”
Spain is now in its second recession in three years, with the unemployment rate rising above 25 percent for the first time on record in the third quarter. UGT leader Cándido Méndez said there were more reasons than ever in the history of the country to call a general strike: “labor, social, economic.” “In less than a year this country has gone back 35 years,” he added.
The unions acknowledged adhesion to the strike could be less than hoped for because of the tough financial situation of many families whose members are still in work, but expected a massive turnout to protests organized for later in the day.
The Interior Ministry said it had ordered police to move against incidents of “violent picketing.”