- Around 800 flights to and from Portugal and Spain cancelled
- Walkouts and protests planned across Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy
- London protests planned to coincide with European walkouts
- Unions fighting cuts demand an end to ‘unbearable’ austerity measures
- British air passengers grounded with dozens of flights cancelled
- Eurostar passengers being urged not to travel on trains to Brussels
PUBLISHED:05:22 EST, 14 November 2012| UPDATED:11:14 EST, 14 November 2012
Thousands of British air passengers have been left stranded today as a wave of anti-austerity strikes hit mainland Europe shutting down airports and bringing many public services to a grinding halt.
Heathrow has seen 39 cancellations with British Airways axing flights to Madrid and Barcelona as well as return services to Lisbon in Portugal. EasyJet have cancelled some UK-Spanish services as well as more than 20 flights within mainland Europe.
And there were angry scenes as protesters clashed with police on Oxford Street during a demonstration against the sacking of 28 Crossrail workers which had been planned to coincide with European strikes.
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SPAIN: A car set on fire by protesters on an industrial estate cuts off access to the city Lugo in northwestern Spain
ITALY: A large group of demonstrators file though one of the main streets in the Italian city of Terni
FRANCE: A police officer watches a man brandishing a flare during an anti-austerity protest in Lille in northern France
LONDON: Protesters tussle with police on Oxford Street in a demonstration over the dismissals of 28 Crossrail workers being held to coincide with the planned anti-austerity strikes happening across Europe today
SNAPSHOT OF MISERY: HOW THE UNREST HAS UNFOLDED ACROSS EUROPE
Anger: Riot police apprehend a protestor during unrest in Madrid
- By 4pm, 82 people arrested and 34 injured in clashes in Madrid, Valencia, Tarragona, Murcia and the region of Asturias
- A couple carrying bomb-making materials including gasoline, gas bottles, screws and nails arrested in Madrid while a boy of ten was ‘left bleeding from the head’ after being beaten in a police charge
- At least 18 students and pickets were arrested in valencia as police baton-charge demonstrators
- In Asturias, two officers were injured as protester shoot fireworks at a police van
- Nearly 100 per cent of workers in the motor, energy, shipbuilding and construction industries on strike, crippling services
- More than 600 flights were cancelled while just 20 percent of long-distance trains and a third of its commuter trains in service
- Protesters jammed cash machines with glue and coins and plastered anti-government stickers on shop windows around Spain while power consumption dropped 16 percent with factories idled.
- Protests turned ugly in Milan, Rome and the northwest city of Turin. Rallies were also held in Naples, Bologna and Modena.
- Police say several officers were injured during clashes in Rome after students tried to rush a police van. A handful of protesters were detained briefly.
- Italy’s biggest union, CGIL, called for a work stoppage for several hours across the country.
- The transportation ministry expected trains and ferries to halt for four hours while students and teachers are expected to march.
- Heathrow Airport has seen 39 cancellations
- And there were angry scenes as protesters clashed with police on Oxford Street during a demonstration against the sacking of 28 Crossrail workers.
- Protests take place in Paris, Lille and Marseille
- Five trade unions organised marches in more than 100 cities but did not call for a strike.
So far only flights to and from Portugal and Spain have been affected by with an estimated 800 cancellations – roughly 40 per cent of the daily average.
More than 600 flights were cancelled in Spain, mainly by Iberia and budget carrier Vueling. Portugal’s flag carrier TAP cancelled roughly 45 percent of flights.
British Airways said: ‘We are doing all we can to minimise the disruption to our customers.’
‘Customers due to fly to or from Spain today can rebook to an alternate date free of charge. Customers on cancelled services can also take a full refund.
‘We are also looking at putting on larger aircraft to help as many customers as possible. We are advising customers to check ba.com for the latest flight information.
‘We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused by industrial action which is beyond our control.’
Road block: Protesters form a human chain to stop traffic on one side of Oxford Street in a demonstration against austerity measures and the dismissal of Crossrail workers
Shutting up: A shop hurriedly closes its shutters as demonstrators shout slogans forcing it to close for business at Barajas airport in Madrid, Spain
No go zone: Pickets gather on the streets of Barcelona shutting down key transport links
Security: Dozens of police officers stand guard at Madrid’s Atocha rail station with the nationwide strike threatening to cripple public transport
A Heathrow spokesman added: ‘Most people seem to have got the message that some flights were going to be axed and the terminals are operating smoothly.
‘Flight cancellations are never good news, but we do operate around 1,300 flights a day so the figure of 39 is a comparatively small one.’
A London easyjet flight to Thessalonaki in Greece was delayed for three hours 40 minutes with another to Athens held for two hours 30 minutes. A Manchester-Athens flight was delayed for two hours 10 minutes.
The 10.57am London to Brussels Eurostar train service was cancelled, with the company hoping to accommodate the affected passengers on the 12.57pm service.
‘Further disruptions are possible throughout the day and customers are advised not to travel,’ Eurostar warned customers.
Coordinated walkouts and protests have been planned across Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy as part of a trade-union organised European Day of Action and Solidarity.
Italy: Demonstrators carry placards and shout slogans as they march through the streets of Rome
Protesters burn an EU flag after storming the regional Palace of the Province in Turin and piling furniture onto the street
In Spain, the interior ministry said 32 people had been arrested and 15 people treated for minor injuries after disturbances including trouble in the capital Madrid where an evening rally outside the parliament has been planned.
The General Workers Union said the stoppage, the second in Spain this year, was being heeded by nearly 100 per cent of workers in the motor, energy, shipbuilding and construction industries.
Bernadette Segol, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘The trade unions in Europe want to show that these policies will change. That the result is not what they want to be.
‘That we have more recession and unemployment and we want to change these policies.
‘It’s now getting unbearable. It’s high time to change the aim and the policies.
‘The democratic deficit is quite clear. This is much more than recommendations. It’s obligations that they have to apply.
‘Greece don’t want to leave the euro and they shouldn’t leave the euro.
‘What is being done to make sure that tax evasion is stopped? We don’t see anything happening on that front. And it’s always the normal people who are paying – so you can imagine their anger.
‘Just stop the austerity measures. They are counter-productive. They do have to pay their debt back – but the way to pay the debt back is not to have a bigger recession.’
Spain is the Eurozone’s fourth largest economy but is in the grip of an unemployment crisis with one in four adults currently out of work.
Some five million people, or 22 per cent of the workforce, are union members in Spain. Just 20 percent of Spain’s long-distance trains and a third of its commuter trains are expected to run.
However Ministry official Cristina Diaz played down participation, saying it was hardly noticeable in goods haulage and major city wholesale food markets.
She said electricity consumption, a gauge of industrial activity, was down only 11 per cent on a normal working day.
In Portugal about one fourth of the 5.5 million strong workforce is unionised. Unions have planned rallies and marches in cities throughout both countries, with a major demonstration beginning at 6:30 p.m in Madrid.
Lisbon’s Metro will be shut completely and only 10 percent of all trains will run under court-ordered minimum service.
The international coordination shows ‘we are looking at a historic moment in the European Union movement,’ said Fernando Toxo, head of Spain’s biggest union, Comisiones Obreras.
Greece: A banner proclaims: ‘Austerity kills dignity – reclaim Europe’ during a protest outside the Greek parliament in Athens
A protester shouts slogans during an anti-austerity march through the streets of Athens
Puppets and flags are raised in the air during an anti-austerity protest outside the Greek parliament building in Athens
Spain, where one in four workers is unemployed, is now teetering on the brink of calling for a European bailout, with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy trying to put off a rescue that could require even more EU-mandated budget cuts.
Passion has been further inflamed since last week when a Spanish woman jumped from her apartment to her death as bailiffs tried to evict her when her bank foreclosed on a loan. Spaniards are furious at banks being rescued with public cash while ordinary people suffer.
‘We’re going to protest because they’re ignoring people’s rights. People are being evicted and they’re raising our taxes,’ said Sandra Gonzalez, 19, a social work student at Madrid’s Complutense University who plans to march with friends.
In Portugal, which accepted an EU bailout last year, the streets have been quieter so far but public and political opposition to austerity is mounting, threatening to derail new measures sought by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.
His policies were held up this week as a model by Germany’s Angela Merkel, a hate figure in crisis-hit southern European countries.
Delay: A sticker reading ‘General strike’ is stuck on a flight information board at Madrid Barajas airport
Protesters burn tyres at the main entrance to Mercabarna, the biggest wholesale market in Barcelona. Similar work stoppages are taking place in Portugal and Greece, to protest government-imposed austerity measures and labor reforms
‘The first ever Iberian strike’ would be ‘a great signal of discontent and also a warning to European authorities,’ said Armenio Carlos, head of Portugal’s CGTP union which is organising the action there
Italy’s biggest union, CGIL, called for a work stoppage for several hours across the country. The transportation ministry expects trains and ferries to halt for four hours. Students and teachers are expected to march.
In Greece, which saw a big two-day strike last week while parliament voted on new cuts, the main public and private sector labour unions called for a three-hour work stoppage and an anti-austerity rally in solidarity with the Spaniards and Portuguese.
Athens police expect 10,000 demonstrators, small by the standard of protests there.
This will be the first time Spanish unions have held two general strikes in one year. Spain’s last general strike, in March, brought factories and ports to a standstill and ignited flashes of street violence.
Direct action: A demonstrator sprays the word ‘Vaga’ (‘strike’ in Catalan) over a truck in Barcelona
Protesters move a concrete block shut off the main entrance to Mercabarna, the biggest wholesale market in Spain in Barcelona
Protests against cuts and economic reforms have since gained even more steam. A violent march in Madrid in September – coupled with riots in Greece – sparked a September 26 sell-off in the euro and European and U.S. stock markets.
Spain’s economy, the euro zone’s fourth biggest, will shrink by some 1.5 percent this year, four years after the crash of a decade-long building boom left airports, highways and high-rise buildings disused across the country. Portugal’s economy is expected to contract by 3 percent.
Every week seems to bring fresh job cuts. Spain’s flagship airline Iberia, owned by UK-based International Airlines Group, said last week it will cut 4,500 jobs. The prestigious El Pais newspaper just laid off almost a quarter of its staff.
Portugal has long avoided the street unrest seen in Spain and Greece, but that appears to be changing as the government continues to seek new measures to shrink a budget deficit.
A strike organised by CGTP in March had little impact, but in September hundreds of thousands of Portuguese rallied against a government plan to raise workers’ social security contributions.
Portugal: Workers on a picket line at the entrance to the Mitrena shipyard, south of Lisbon this morning
Target: Two policemen guard a bank in Madrid with graffiti reading ‘Assassins’ scrawled on the wall
Arrest: A protester is hauled away by riot police officers after trying to close a bar as part of strike action in Malaga, southern Spain in the early hours of the morning
Thespian revolt: A crowd gathers around the Teatro Espaol of Madrid where actors have locked themselves inside to protest against austerity cuts
‘This austerity is a never-ending story. We see no light at the end of the end of the tunnel, just more pain and difficulties. We have to protest, do something to stop it,’ said Lisbon pensioner Jose Marques, who plans to march on Wednesday.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme Richard Corbett, adviser to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said: ‘A dilemma is being faced by governments across Europe and it is a challenge. When you have such high debt levels and still have big deficits you have to address that question.
‘Greece has been given a low interest loan but the creditors do want to know that in due course this situation will be rectified.
‘Greece has a democratic choice. Ultimately it’s democratic choices that will be made. There does come a limit to how much a country can sustain a huge deficit.
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