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Austerity strikes throughout Europe leave many travelers stranded

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 14th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

All across Europe, disgruntled workers have left their posts in protest of the latest round of austerity measures to shore up the embattled euro. Intended to paralyze factories and public sector offices, more troubling is the fact that thousands of passengers have been left stranded with the cancellation of at least 700 flights.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Massive walkouts are expected in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, with other protests planned in Belgium, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. It marks the first times that the unions have organized a strike across the European continent. The European Trade Union Confederation has declared it a "Day of Action and Solidarity."

Unions in Spain and Portugal began strikes at midnight to protest against measures that have combined tax rises with cuts in salaries, pensions, benefits and social services. Spain, where one in four workers remains unemployed is holding its second general strike in eight months to protest against severe budget cuts.

Protests in Barcelona have been relatively peaceful. Protestors have marched, chanting slogans and blowing off small smoke bombs. Police maintain a strong security presence but have not engaged with any of the demonstrators.

The situation is far more intense in Madrid. Picketers and police fought at a Madrid transport depot, where demonstrators were trying to stop buses from leaving. Pickets are ongoing at airports, markets and bus and railway stations.

In nearby Portugal, Lisbon's metro service was out of service, while ferries across the River Tagus and trains across the country ran skeleton services. Refuse collection has also grounded to a near halt.

Portugal's unions have called marches and rallies in about 40 towns and cities against the center-right government's austerity policies.

Legislation in both Spain and Portugal requires that workers to provide a minimum service in essential industries -- but many airlines have cancelled many domestic and international flights.

Greece, generally thought of as the nation that precipitated the European economic crisis, is witnessing protests against the latest round of government cuts. Italian unions in addition have called a four-hour walkout.

Union-led rallies supporting the day of action are also expected in France, Belgium and in Poland.

Train services between France, Germany and Belgium have been disrupted. Belgian rail workers are participating in the work stoppage in solidarity with striking workers in other European countries.

Students and workers have been marching in Rome against severe spending cuts, with one banner showing German Chancellor Angela Merkel dressed in a Nazi uniform.

In Germany, considered by many as the leader of the austerity drive, the union federation DGB has called protests across the country, including in Berlin and Frankfurt.
In the United Kingdom, Heathrow has seen 35 cancellations - with British Airways axing flights to Madrid and Barcelona as well as return services to Lisbon in Portugal - while Gatwick Airport reported approximately 13 cancellations.

EasyJet has cancelled some UK-Spanish services as well as more than 20 flights within mainland Europe.

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