Saturday, October 2

Austerity blues

A 24-hour strike has been called on Monday across the Underground network. It’s the second strike in a month as unions fight plans to close ticket offices and cut 800 jobs. Another two strikes are threatened in the months ahead if the dispute isn’t resolved. Today’s paper was also reporting news of a two-day strike at the BBC. Journalists, technicians and other broadcast staff are due walk out on October 5 and 6 over a growing pension dispute.

Such protests appear to be on the rise throughout Europe as Governments begin implementing increasingly painful austerity plans. On Wednesday a general strike was called in Spain, while protests against austerity measures were held in Greece, Italy, the Irish Republic and Latvia. France has also witnessed angry protests against a planned increase in the minimum retirement age.

Such protests seem dangerously devoid of reality as European Governments continue chalking up staggering deficits. Yesterday the Irish Government announced that its bail-out of the nation’s banks had risen to 45billion euros. The increase will see the government run a budget deficit equivalent to 32% of GDP this year. One statistic really captured my imagination; each Irish taxpayer has forked out the equivalent of 22,500 euros to keep Ireland’s banks solvent.

Elswhere, France has already announced plans to cut spending by 45billion euros over the next three years. The German government has proposed plans to cut its budget deficit by a record 80billion euros. The Italian government has approved austerity measures worth 24billion euros over the next two years. Spain has announced spending cuts of at least 8% and on it goes.

In the UK, on October 21, the Government will announce the results of its ambitious spending review. Almost every Government department will outline proposed spending cuts between 25% and 40% over a four-year period. Once agreed these measures will be progressively introduced starting early next year.

It's clear that strikes and protests will be an increasingly dominant news theme in the months ahead.

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