Labour Research June 2009

European news

Thousands march over crisis

Coordinated demonstrations last month in four European capitals brought more than 300,000 people onto their streets in a further sign of growing concern about the economic crisis. The actions in Madrid, Brussels, Prague and Berlin in mid-May were organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), supported by national affiliates.

While the ETUC has organised individual demonstrations in the past, this is the first time it has organised a series of demonstrations in different EU states. All four of the demonstrations produced bigger turnouts than expected. In Spain, where unemployment is already 17.4% (first quarter of 2009) with forecasts that it will top 20%, 150,000 marched through the capital, Madrid.

In Berlin there were 100,000 demonstrators. The unemployment rate in Germany is currently 8.6% (3.6 million people), but there are 687,000 people on short-time working receiving a government subsidy.Unions fear that many of these could lose their jobs completely if the economy does not recover. In Brussels, the home of both the ETUC and important EU institutions, 50,000 marched. In the Czech capital, Prague, 30,000 demonstrated.

The ETUC has five main demands: an expanded programme of economic recovery, improved pay and pensions, an end to European Court of Justice decisions giving greater priority to the free market than to the rights of employees and unions, better regulation of financial markets, and a new European Central Bank policy taking account of employment and growth as well as inflation.