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19 Feb, 2012 16:21

Next on the list? Spaniards protest labor reforms

The Eurozone's austerity drive has not been lost on Spain, where thousands of people across the country took to the streets to protest recently-approved labor reforms.

­The largest rally was in Madrid, but Spain’s biggest trade unions, the CC.OO (Confederación Sindical de las Comisiones Obreras) and UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores), organized gatherings in some 57 cities across the country.According to union officials, as many as 500,000 people flooded the capital's streets, while as many as 400,000 turned out in Barcelona. Barcelona police estimated the number of participants at 30,000. Protesters insist that the reforms exploit workers and could destroy jobs by making it easier to adjust employees' schedules and wages, and have staff fired.On the contrary, government officials argue, the labor reforms will reduce unemployment and give workers more rights, like, for example, a paid annual 20-hour training leave.This is the second wave of rallies since February 11, when Spain's parliament approved the reforms. Protests that day turned violent as demonstrators were blocked by police on their way to the Parliament.Spain's unemployment level has tripled since 2007, with nearly half of people under 25 out of work. The EU statistics office, Eurostat, says Spain is home to a third of unemployed eurozone citizens, and one of its highest unemployment rates – at about 23 per cent.

­Investment advisor Patrick Young believes Spain needs this reform.“The government is right, but that does not mean it is not going to be potentially painful for a lot of people who do have jobs at the moment,” he told RT. “In essence both parties are right. The corporations are right – they can’t manage to fire anybody, they have got incredibly stringent employment contracts. The unions at the same time [are] defending a particular constituency."And that constituency is essentially made up of people who are 30 or more years old, all the way up to pensionable age, he says.“Those are the only people who can get permanent contracts in Spain. And this is where this argument arises because the tragedy, and the reason why Spain has got 40 per cent unemployment among those people who are in their twenties, is simply because they can’t get a permanent job,” Young added. He says that the solution lies in so-called "creative destruction," the point of which is that “sometimes you need to get rid of people in certain jobs in order to employ people in other places.”And the UK, Young says, is a good example of “how that worked.”