Factbox: Economic storm pounding euro zone brings protests

(BestGrowthStock) – Here are some details on protests in four euro zone countries whose economies are facing severe stress over high debt levels and repayments.

* GREECE – Greek public and private sector workers went on strike on Thursday, grounding flights, shutting schools and halting public transport in the second nationwide walkout in a fortnight in protest against austerity plans.

— Last Friday wildcat strikes hit schools and hospitals and brought public transport in Athens to a halt. Opinion polls show increasing opposition to the taxes and cuts but the 24-hour strike was unlikely to halt government plans to slash spending and increase taxes to rein in a yawning deficit that has shaken the euro.

— The private sector GSEE union and its sister public sector union ADEDY, which represent half of Greece’s 5-million workforce, say the EU-backed austerity plan will hurt the poor and aggravate the recession-hit country’s economic problems. ADEDY has said that it is preparing further labor action in April and May. — Greece announced last week 4.8 billion euros ($6.5 billion) in wage cuts, a pension freeze and tax hikes to tackle its huge fiscal deficit and 300 billion euro ($408 billion) debt pile.

— A one-day general strike on February 24 crippled Greece’s transport and public services.

— The government won a victory over the unions when farmers abandoned a blockade empty handed on February 16 and tax officials canceled a 24-hour planned strike.

* IRELAND – Ireland’s biggest union SIPTU plans to stage a two-day strike at seven Dublin hospitals between April 7-9 in protest against pay cuts imposed by the government to stabilize the budget deficit.

— The planned work stoppage by some 4,500 porters, caterers, security and other low-paid staff is the first major action to be flagged as part a general wave of industrial strife unions announced on Monday.

* PORTUGAL – Portuguese union leaders have pledged to step up protests against the government’s austerity plan, but the Socialist administration, under pressure to shore up public finances, says it will not back down.

The government on March 8 presented a draft long-term plan to slash the budget deficit to below the EU limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2013 as it aims to convince markets it can avoid a Greek-style fiscal crisis.

— Portuguese civil servants shut schools, courts and hospitals on March 4 in a strike to protest against austerity measures with unions saying 80 percent took part and the Socialist government putting the figure at 13 percent.

— Civil servants are challenging the government’s freeze on their wages this year during a deep economic downturn that has taken unemployment at 10 percent, to its highest in a quarter of a century.

* SPAIN – Only a few tens of thousands of protesters showed up for marches in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia on February 24, according to most estimates.

— The size of the protests, the first by the unions against Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, was being monitored by investors for signs the government might struggle to contain social anger against the rise in the pension age to 67 from 65 and a 50 billion euro austerity plan.

— These measures are seen as vital if Spain is to convince markets that it can tame a budget deficit that reached 11.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2009.

Stock Research

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; editing by Michael Roddy)

Factbox: Economic storm pounding euro zone brings protests