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Unions threaten further action if government holds firm on labor reform

Turn-out at Madrid demonstrations estimated at 500,000 by organizers

Police cite the figure as between 25,000 and 35,000

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Protestors demonstrating against the government's labor reforms pass through Plaza de Cibeles on Sunday. EFE

“The strike set for March 29 is not the end of anything – let Mariano Rajoy understand that the mobilization will continue,” said Ignacio Fernández Toxo, the leader of the CCOO labor union, at the end of a protest march through Madrid on Sunday against the government’s labor reform bill.

“Mr Rajoy, you have the month of March to start up a dialogue and to present a reasonable budget, and the unions will be there,” continued Toxo, who, accompanied by the leader of the UGT union, Cándido Méndez, also said that the measures put in place by the Popular Party government to drag Spain out of recession were not temporary but “for the rest of our lives.”

Spain’s two biggest labor unions organized 60 demonstrations across Spain on Sunday, partly to set in motion a concerted series of protests against the government’s plans for labor reform, and partly as a show of strength ahead of a general strike planned for March 29. The unions put the figure of attendees in the capital at half a million, a number slashed to 25,000 to 35,000 by police estimates.

Méndez criticized those who have sought to paint the protests in the light of a confrontation between the unions and the government, “when the unions are the democratic and constitutional finger pointing to the serious problems that this labor reform will create. The government has taken immoral advantage of the crisis. The strike will not be carried out in a minor way.”

The CCOO chief also responded to criticism that Sunday’s protests had been called on March 11, a day of mourning for the victims of the Madrid train bombings in 2004. Toxo stated that both the CCOO and UGT had stood alongside the victims on March 11 for the past seven years, and both had participated earlier in the day in acts of remembrance at Atocha station, where the several devices planted on commuter trains that March morning were primed to go off.

The march commenced at 12pm at the Neptune statue in the city center, where demonstrators carried banners reading: “Without peace, without bread”, and “Labor reform, legal violence.”

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