EU bureaucrats in strike threat to protect pay
BRUSSELS bureaucrats are threatening strike action to protect generous pay and conditions just as the European Union is embroiled in the eurozone crisis.
Some 40,000 officials are embroiled in a dispute over plans to increase their working week from 37.5 hours to 40 hours, raise their retirement age from 58, and award a pay rise of just 1.8 cent.
The pay dispute, in which the unions are demanding more than twice as much as they have been offered, comes as governments across the region are being urged to adopt harsh austerity measures and public sector pay freezes.
Attempts to get EU spending down have enraged many civil servants, who fear the end of their enviable conditions. One union memo earlier this month said: "Many colleagues fear that the economically unstable context will turn negotiations on staff regulations reform into an all-out war against the European civil service."
A mass demonstration has been called for Tuesday in Brussels, and union members have given notice that they may begin strike action the next day.
Industrial action could hamper the machinery of the EU as it tries to deal with the eurozone crisis. The expertise of officials is desperately needed as Europe's leaders attempt to draw up a complex programme of economic integration intended to reassure markets and start to draw Europe out of the mire.
Pieter Cleppe of the think tank Open Europe said: "This shows that EU officials are out of touch with reality if they are striking when getting a pay rise, and at a moment when all European governments are cutting their budgets, also at the instigation of the EU."
Meanwhile, Spaniards say they see only more hardship ahead after a parliamentary election today. A victory for opposition leader Mariano Rajoy of the conservative People's Party appears to be a
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foregone conclusion and the main question is exactly what austerity measures he plans to impose to steer Spain away from economic meltdown.
High unemployment, cuts in public spending and fears that Spain could become the next eurozone country to need a rescue package dominated the election campaigns.