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Rajoy gets his general strike over easy-firing labor law

Unions call for stoppage to protest labor reform on March 29

Poll shows little appetite among public to take government on

During a trip to Brussels at the end of January Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was overheard telling a European colleague that the far-reaching labor reform he was planning “is going to cost me a general strike.” On Friday, the country’s main labor organizations granted him his wish.

The CCOO and UGT unions said the general stoppage, the sixth since the return to democracy would be held on March 29.

The drastic overhaul of the laws governing Spain’s labor market approved last month by the conservative Popular Party government makes it much cheaper and easier to fire workers. The unions said they had no choice but to call a strike after Rajoy refused to meet with them.

“This is the same government that said it would not raise taxes [but did] even during the investiture debate; this is the same government that said it wouldn’t make it cheaper to sack workers,” UGT secretary-general Cándido Méndez said.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said there would be no turning back on the labor reform, which passed its first hurdle in Congress on Thursday.

“Strikes are not the solution in moments of serious problems for people,” she said.

The unions called a general strike in September of 2010 to protest a decaffeinated labor reform by the then Socialist government. But the stoppage was less than a success and opinion polls indicate that although the vast majority feel the economic situation is very bad, people do not have the stomach for a strike.

A survey carried out for EL PAÍS earlier this week by Metroscopia, showed 67 percent of those questioned feel a strike would serve no purpose.