PARIS (Reuters) – Anti-austerity demonstrators are back on the march across much of Europe, fueled by anger at crisis-induced spending cuts, pension and labor market reforms that will hit the old, sick, poor and public employees hardest.
Yet despite strikes and protests called by shrinking trade unions, there seems little prospect of any euro zone government abandoning structural reforms or savings measures driven by financial market pressure, the European Union and the IMF.
“Public opinion and the unions are fighting a rearguard action and they know it,” said Ronald Tiersky, professor of European politics at Amherst College in the United States.
“Cutting back welfare state benefits has been on the agenda for a few decades and the financial crisis has brought additional public awareness of the limits to sweet deals.”
Spanish unions have called the first general strike in eight years Wednesday against public spending cuts and easier hire-and-fire laws enacted by the Socialist government. The umbrella organization of EU unions plans Europe-wide protests against austerity on the same day.