AFP: Spain unions call for protests against labour reforms

Spain’s two biggest unions called on Saturday for nationwide protests on February 19 against labour reforms which they said would destroy jobs.

“On February 19 we want the streets of Spain to be filled with noisy protests against the labour reforms,” the head of the CCOO union, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, told a joint news conference with UGT union boss Candido Mendez.

“We will set in motion a process of mobilisation that we hope will grow,” Toxo said.

Asked whether the unions would call a general strike, Toxo said representatives would visit companies to explain to workers that the reforms “attack the fundamentals of (Spain’s) model of social well-being” and aimed to “dismantle” workers’ rights.

Mendez told the news conference that the reforms would “destroy jobs in the short term and increase job insecurity in the medium term (and) increase the frustration of people” already reeling under earlier austerity measures.

He said the reforms would impoverish the middle class, lamenting that employers will be able to fire employees more cheaply and hire young people at lower wages.

Spain’s conservative government on Friday slashed employees’ maximum severance pay as part of sweeping labour reforms to confront a jobless rate of nearly 23 percent. Youth unemployment stands at nearly 50 percent.

Under the reforms, sacked employees will receive 33 days’ worth of severance pay per year worked, and only 20 days’ worth in financially driven layoffs, compared with the current 45 days.

Hundreds of people protested in Madrid on Friday night against the reforms, in the latest of a string of demonstrations against austerity measures.

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