Spanish firemen strip naked to protest spending cuts

AFP, Thursday 19 Jul 2012

New government austerity measure that include cuts in public sector wages and tax increases triggers outrage among Spanish firemen

Eight firemen posed in the nude in a Spanish town on Thursday to protest against sweeping new government austerity measures that include public sector wage cuts and tax increases.

The firefighters emerged one by one from their fire station in the northern town of Mieres near Oviedo wearing just their black helmets and boots and lined up side by side against a wall with their backs to the assembled press.

With so many cuts we have been left naked," declared a banner on the wall above them.

"Eight firefighters who show their ass are worth more than a protest through the streets against the cuts," said Javier Piedra, 41, one of the 16 members of the Mieres fire brigade.

Spain's two main labour unions, the UGT and the CCOO, have planned demonstrations by public sector workers in 80 cities and towns later Thursday against the austerity measures.

Numerous firefighters and police officers have turned out at smaller protests which have taken place daily since the government announced the latest measures on July 11.

Among the new steps is the cutting of the Christmas bonus paid to civil servants, equivalent to a seven-per cent reduction in annual pay, and a rise in sales tax that is likely to hit consumers.

The loss of the bonus comes on top of another pay cut of an average of five per cent in 2010, which was followed by a salary freeze.

"We are protesting because they are reducing our salary and now they are getting rid of the Christmas bonus."

Firefighters in Mieres earn an average of 1,500-1,550 euros ($1,840-1,900) a month, said Piedra.

"Without taking into account the end of the Christmas bonus, our salary has declined by around 200 euros since the first cuts came into force in June 2010," he said.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government aims to save 65 billion euros with its latest austerity measures in order to lower Spain's public deficit.

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