Europe has recently been hit by a wave of anti-austerity protests. On 29 September Spain had its first general strike in eight years with workers taking to the streets to protest against the Government’s proposed spending cuts. The strike was called by the two biggest union confederations, CCOO and the UGT, and coincided with protests in Brussels, Athens and other European cities. Whilst the strike disrupted public services its impact was much less than first anticipated, largely because many Spanish workers seem resigned to the austerity measures.

In Spain employees are not legally required to notify their employer of their intention to participate in a general strike. Furthermore, employers have no right to ask for this information.

If a general strike is called the Government is required to establish which services are essential to the community, such as transport and health services and is then required to negotiate with the Unions over the provision of these services. This often results in the parties failing to reach agreement over what should be provided, inevitably impacting on the level of services provided.

Although further strike action cannot be ruled out, the Spanish Government has made it clear that it will not change its proposals or its commitment to bring its annual budget deficit down to the EU target of 3% by 2013, meaning that future strikers risk losing salary for the days in question while achieving nothing.