June 30, 2010 / 6:57 AM / 9 years ago

Spain metro strike continues over austerity

MADRID (Reuters) - A strike by Metro workers snarled traffic for the third day in Madrid on Wednesday and unions said the protest against austerity measures aimed at getting Spain’s deficit under control could become indefinite.

Police officers stand guard at Nuevos Ministerios station during a metro strike in Madrid June 29, 2010. A strike by Metro workers snarled traffic for the third day in Madrid on Wednesday and unions said the protest against austerity measures aimed at getting Spain's deficit under control could become indefinite. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Workers were due to vote later in the morning on extending the three-day stoppage, that has affected 2 million commuters and had far more impact than a nationwide civil servants’ strike called earlier this month.

Unions are angry over public sector pay cuts designed to help cut Spain’s budget deficit, which ballooned to 11.2 percent last year from a pre-crisis surplus.

Spain’s Socialist government aims to save 15 billion euros ($18.3 billion) by, amongst other moves, slashing civil servants’ pay by an average of 5 percent.

Metro workers say wage cuts decreed by central government do not apply to public company workers, such as transport, and said Madrid’s conservative local government was reneging on a collective contract it signed last year.

“Workers have nothing to negotiate. We want the Madrid government to put in writing that they respect our agreement,” strike committee spokesman Vicente Rodriguez said in an interview in the El Pais daily newspaper.

Madrid’s chief transport officer, Jose Ignacio Echevarria, criticised Metro workers for not providing minimum services stipulated in their collective contract.

“Metro will not negotiate as long as basic services are not respected, will not negotiate with whoever breaks the law. I hope they see sense,” he said in El Pais.

Buses were crammed early on Wednesday, taxis were in great demand and cars packed the streets as employees in the capital of 5 million struggled to travel to work.

It was the first time in two decades that Metro workers had not provided a minimum service, local media said.

Local media added that 13 demonstrations were also planned across Spain on Wednesday as unions prepare for a general strike called for the end of September.

(Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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