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Can euro zone strikes derail recovery?

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 02:13

Oct 31 - Europe may be showing signs of recovery but a string of strikes in Spain, Italy and Portugal is serving as a reminder that the euro zone may not be out of the woods yet. Sonia Legg reports

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It's a long holiday weekend in much of Europe but many of those trying to get away were going nowhere. It's day four of disruption on the railways in Spain. A series of stoppages have been taking place all week against a government plan to restructure two state-owned companies. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) COMMUTER, GABRIELA, SAYING: "It's terrible, we are trying to get to work and there's no train. I now have to go and try to find a bus." Not getting to work is a big issue in Spain. With unemployment at 26% jobs are hard to come by. Spain officially emerged from recession this week but many workers say you wouldn't know it. In neighbouring Portugal it's a similar story. Striking workers there brought the Lisbon metro to a standstill. Again the problem is privatisation. Portugal's public transport sector is 18 billion euros in debt. And the government needs to sell concessions in order to meet the terms of its bailout. Unions aren't impressed. (SOUNDBITE) (English) METRO UNION REPRESENTATIVE, SILVA MARQUES, SAYING: "They never sat at the table with us. That's why the workers aren't happy. Like the rest of the population in Portugal we see no way out." In Italy it was bank employees who downed tools - protesting against a decision by the country's biggest lenders to scrap a national labour contract. And in Greece too there were protests. Not workers this time - but pensioners and the disabled protesting against cuts. Recent talk of recovery hasn't reached them either, although Barclays' Will Hobbs insists investors aren't worried. (SOUNDBITE) (English): WILL HOBBS, VP RESEARCH, BARCLAYS, SAYING: "The business confidence data, even the little signs in the unemployment data we've seen across Europe, it feels like the recovery is gaining traction. You always want to watch for social unrest but I think the think to point to in the last couple of years has taught us that the social and political institutions are able to take much more punishment than we thought they might have been able to before the crisis." Most accept the crisis in the euro zone has improved in recent months. But the industrial action suggests governments still aren't finding it easy to implement the necessary reforms. /////

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Can euro zone strikes derail recovery?

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 02:13