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Europe grapples with industrial action across the continent

French Strikers. (File Image)

Protesters have returned to major cities across Europe to voice their anger of the rising cost of living across the continent, exacerbated by the needless assignment of funds to the war in Ukraine.

In Spain, people held a massive rally in Madrid against what they call the regional governments dismantling of the public healthcare system.

Officials say 250,000 people turned out but organizers put the number as high as a million. That is the largest such demonstration in recent months

Protestors accuse the regional government of prioritizing private health. They say the Public Health Service is suffering from staff and equipment shortages as a result of the government's policies.

Some primary care doctors and health care workers have also been holding regular strikes for better working conditions and increased pay.

The condition of the public health system is deteriorating. The number of doctors has been decreasing with medical conditions getting worse. Many medical centers have been closed.

Spanish Protestor

The region’s Right Wing Leader has repeatedly claimed that the protesters are motivated by political interests, and in the Portuguese city of Lisbon, tens of thousands of teachers have taken to the streets amid public discontent over the cost of living crisis.

It is the third time in less than a month that teachers and school workers have held mass demonstrations.

Teachers want a pay rise and are also calling on the government to speed up career progression.

Officials say negotiations with teachers unions are ongoing and express hope that agreements will be reached soon. Portugal is one of Western Europe's poorest countries, which is seeing decades high inflation and is grappling with the cost of living crisis.

We are here to claim our rights, which were taken away from us a long time ago. Our careers have been frozen for a long time. And that can't be; we have the right to have a more dignified career. We can't work like this. It just can't be!

Portuguese Teacher

Protests in Spain and Portugal come as passengers across Germany have witnessed widespread travel chaos after a major trade union called on airport workers go on strike over pay disputes.

The Verdi trade union called for the industrial action after collective bargaining efforts to settle wage disputes with the government had failed.

Since last year European airlines have been facing strikes over staff shortages and skyrocketing inflation which has prompted employees to demand higher wages.

German officials say that, despite the recent improvements, the economy is expected to suffer another mild decline in early 2023 due to the fact that energy prices for households are still increasing.

German consumer prices, harmonized to compare with other European Union countries, peaked at 11.6% in October, driven by the surge in energy prices and rising input cost.

In the UK, more than 70% of households fear that they will be severely hit by the cost of living crisis in the first part of 2023, up from 54% at the end of last year.

Nobody actually wants to be on strike. We want to be here to do our jobs. We want to look after the students here, this is what our passion is, but we've been driven into a situation where we can't even pay our bills now.

So basically we've been forced to do this. Nobody works in education to be rich, but we'd like to have a decent standard of life and I think we're losing a lot of staff as well.

A lot of people are leaving because of the pay.

UK Striking Teacher

Meanwhile, in France, police clashed with people protesting the government's pension reform bill. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the rallies, which were held in a number of cities across France, seeking to keep up pressure on the government over the reform plan which aims to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64.

President Emmanuel Macron says the reform is vital to ensuring the viability of the pension system.

We would like the age of retirement to remain the same, 62 is already enough for working people like us.

We work in a kindergarten in Douai and we don’t see ourselves working with children at 64.

It is already quite hard currently and going further is not possible.

French Kindergarten Teacher

This is a democracy and people only have a month to debate the pension reform?

The government has kept its project hidden for months despite the fact that it was ready and they only yield on details when people take to the street.

Well, we will keep going.

French Protestestor

The economic crises have been compounded by the protracted war in Ukraine, which has pushed up prices, including the price of commodities, energy products, as well as food.

Furthermore, European nations have pledged billions of dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine, which has severely sapped the capacities of major European economies to spend money on social welfare programs for their own despondent citizenry..


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