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GENERAL STRIKE

Union leaders challenge government to hold austerity referendum

CCOO chief Toxo accuses PP of viewing popular protests as mere public order issue

Manuel V. Gómez
Labor leaders Cándido Méndez (left) and Ignacio Fernández Toxo at Wednesday's demonstration in Madrid.
Labor leaders Cándido Méndez (left) and Ignacio Fernández Toxo at Wednesday's demonstration in Madrid.JUANJO MARTÍN (EFE)

Spain’s main labor unions on Wednesday accused the Popular Party (PP) government of treating the general stoppage and street protests as a simple public order problem and insisted on a referendum on the administration’s deeply unpopular economic policies.

“It is curious the way the government perceives the protests,” the secretary general of the CCOO union, Ignacio Fernández Toxo, said. “They give the sensation of seeing them as a problem of public order rather than one of social order.”

Toxo noted that the members of one picket organized by his union expelled two members wearing CCOO stickers because they found out they were plain-clothes policemen. The union leader distanced himself from all the acts of violence during the stoppage.

In the face of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s intransigence on the government’s austerity drive, Toxo’s counterpart at the UGT labor union, Cándido Méndez, called for a public ballot on the administration’s policies. “We will demand that a referendum be held. If the prime minister is so confident in his strengths, let him have the guts to call a referendum,” Méndez said.

Toxo said there are alternatives to the path of austerity chosen by Rajoy. “The alternatives will arise from the pressure exercised by people such as they arose in the fight against evictions,” the CCOO leader said, referring to popular moves to stop people being thrown out of their homes.

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