Madrid – Thousands of people took to the streets of Spain on May Day to protest against social cutbacks included in the government's labor reform and to demand more leftist-oriented policies to bring down unemployment and prevent the deterioration of public services.
In the eastern province of Valencia, a joint demonstration was staged by the main Spanish unions, the UGT and the CCOO, which for the first time chose to state their May Day demands at a common location outside of Madrid.
Attending that protest were the general secretaries of the CCOO and the UGT, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo and Candido Mendez, respectively, who proposed "different alternatives" - albeit leftist ones - to the cutbacks implemented by the government to get out of the crisis, criticized the reduction of labor rights and called for the reorientation of economic and social policies.
Under the slogan "Employment with rights. Against the social cutbacks," some 20,000 people participated in the gathering, according to the two unions, although the local police said that only 3,000 people turned out.
On the 120th anniversary celebration of May Day, which commemorates the killing of the "Chicago Martyrs" for protesting in 1886 for an 8-hour workday, Toxo said that there are 4,910,000 "more reasons" to ask for different economic, fiscal, social and labor solutions rather than the ones being implemented by the socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
That number refers to the number of unemployed at the present time in Spain, according to the latest Survey of the Active Population released this past week.
Toxo called for the mobilization of society to defend "the interests of the majority" against the lean to the right in Europe which, he said, "pervades" the actions of the national government and the local authorities, on whom he called for greater cooperation among themselves to overcome the crisis.
Meanwhile, Mendez said that the unemployment figures contained in the recent survey - which said that 21.3 percent of all Spaniards of working age were looking for work - confirm "the criticism" of the labor reform.
At the same time, he warned that after the local and autonomous regional elections that will take place in Spain on May 22 there could be a new offensive against labor rights and attacks on the provision of basic services and public administration workers.
Regarding the demonstrations held in other Spanish cities, in Madrid 41,000 people turned out, according to CCOO and UGT estimates, to protest the government's labor reform and the Popular Party-controlled regional government's economic and social policies, along with calling on people to vote for leftist candidates on May 22.
Madrid union leaders Javier Lopez (CCOO) and Jose Ricardo Martinez (UGT) criticized the neoliberal policies undertaken to reduce salaries and social spending, at the same time that they claimed that the wealthy in Madrid had made a total of 15 billion euros ($22.2 billion) in earnings over the past five years.
In an early protest to the one called for May 14 against budget cuts, in Catalonia some 11,000 workers demonstrated on main avenues in the region, mostly in Barcelona, to reject social cuts and demand the creation of jobs.
Cordoba was selected by the big unions to be the location of the main May Day march in Andalusia, with 6,000 people - according to the unions - and 5,000 according to the police, hitting the streets to demand jobs and labor rights.
The UGT and CCOO general secretaries in Andalusia, Manuel Pastrana and Francisco Carbonero, respectively called on the public to protest against unemployment.
There were also demonstrations in the Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria.