Train and subway stoppages cause major logjams in main cities

Protesting union members arrested in Madrid More action planned for coming weeks

Madrid / Barcelona -

There were major traffic snarl-ups on roads in Madrid and Barcelona on Monday as striking subway workers joined their colleagues at state railway operator Renfe, who launched their second nationwide 24-hour stoppage in protest at the government’s liberalization plans for the railway sector.

The Directorate General of Traffic highway safety authority reported problems in the main roads accessing Madrid and Barcelona, with tailbacks stretching 120 kilometers.

Three labor union members were arrested in Madrid’s Atocha train station for resisting the police and were later freed after being charged. The unions accused the police of using unnecessary violence and filed complaints.

The partial strike during peak hours by workers at the Metro subway company in Madrid was in protest at the government’s decision to take away the Christmas bonus payment for public workers, to increase subway fares and close some exits at subway stations.

Hundreds of subway workers also took to the streets of downtown Madrid and Barcelona as part of the protest. Bus drivers joined the stoppage in Barcelona.

Labor unions said 98 percent of workers had heeded the call to strike, while Metro said minimum services had been respected. Further stoppages have been called for September 21 and 28 and for October 1.

The 24-hour strike by Renfe and other state companies in the sector, Adif and Feve, began at midnight and caused the cancelation of 302 high-speed medium-to-long-haul routes. Union leaders said minimum services were being respected.

The protest is against government plans to open up the sector for passenger traffic to the private sector and the break-up of Renfe into four companies, which the unions say will cost jobs, and lead to a deterioration in services and a hike in fares.

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