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30 Jan, 2009 06:38

European strike marchers want more efficiency from governments

It's proving to be a winter of discontent in Europe, as job cuts and uncertainty brought on by the economic downturn are causing people to take to the streets.

In France, transport workers are leading the protests. Thousands of teachers, doctors and postal workers are joining in, saying the government has failed in its handling of the economy.
It's not just the country's most powerful unions; a recent survey shows that more than two thirds of all French people back the strikes.

There are others, however, who believe going on strike is not the best decision right now. Commuters have been the first to suffer the consequences.

“I'm not against the fact that people demonstrate to defend their interest and their benefits as they say. But is this really the best time to do it considering what is going on right now with the economic crisis and everything else that risks happening on the international level? So I really don't think it's the best time to have done this. But, well, this is typically French,” says commuter Pierre Rattier.

French, Greek and German airports were forced to cancel hundreds of flights due to strikes by cabin crew. The losses for air companies are estimated at tens of millions of euros.

Among others, Lufthansa workers are demanding higher pay:

“We are the best airline worldwide with the highest profit and we have the most effective flight attendants in the world. I think that when management serves itself with hundreds of thousands of euros, the cabin staff have the right to take part in this, too,” said Ulrich Riedmiller from the Independent Union of Flight Attendants, explaining their actions.

Greece has also been hit hard by financial turmoil. The right-wing government's reforms have proved highly unpopular. Despite an offer of 500 million euro bailout, farmers have been blockading the country's main roads, paralysing the already fragile economy. They complain the government has failed to provide sufficient support in these hard times.