Strike To Hit Spanish Air Traffic On Thursday

March 25, 2012

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Train, bus and air traffic will be severely limited in Spain on Thursday during a general strike called by unions to protest at high unemployment and changes to laws that will make it cheaper for companies to lay off employees.

The unions, which represent one in five Spanish workers, and the government agreed to retain minimum transport services for Thursday, including only 20 percent of flights between Spanish and other European airports.

Commuter and subway trains will operate at 35 percent of normal during peak hours, and 30 percent during non-peak hours, the public works ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Buses will also run at a level much lower than normal.

Only 10 percent of flights between destinations on the Spanish mainland will operate, and 50 percent of flights between the mainland and Spanish islands.

The government's labour market reform is just the latest in a series of measures Spain has taken in the last two years to try to make its economy more competitive.

Doubts about Spain's public finances have pushed up the state's borrowing costs, forcing the government to drastically cut spending to reduce the public deficit. At the same time, unemployment has risen to 23 percent and the economy is heading into its second recession in three years.

A general strike in 2010 had limited impact - mostly on transport and manufacturing - but this week's walkout could bring a bigger turnout because the jobless rate has increased significantly.

Also, in 2010 the Socialists were in power, and now the centre-right People's Party is in office. Traditionally, the unions have had a political alliance with the Socialists so protests have been more muted during periods of Socialist rule.

The unions had proposed even more drastic cuts to public transport on Thursday, but reached a compromise with the government. In a country where people depend heavily on public transport to get to work, the unions depend on cutting transport services to obtain maximum impact from a strike.