Over 2'000 people took part in the Labour Day march through Palma yesterday, calling for better and safer working conditions and peace in Palestine and voicing their support for the general strike in June. In Palma and across Spain marchers backed union leaders threatening a general strike unless the government scraps planned unemployment benefit reforms. Behind banners that read “Improved Unemployment Protection Now” the UGT general workers union and the CC.OO workers commissions led the 2'000 through Palma. Both unions have threatened a general strike if the conservative PP government of Jose Maria Aznar tries to push ahead with the reforms. One date being considered for the stoppage is June 20, a day before Aznar presides over a European Union summit in Seville. “We're not going to negotiate a single item of this plan,” CC.OO union bosses said yesterday. “Firstly because it is unjust and secondly because it is unjustifiable. They must withdraw it completely. “The government knows...there is going to be a serious confrontation.” Among the proposed measures are an axing of salary payments to workers while labour courts rule on their sacking appeals. The government also hopes to curtail benefit payments to temporary farm workers and gradually cut off payments to those workers who reject jobs offered by the government within 30 miles or which involves less than three hours' displacement. The government insists too many people prefer to receive benefits rather than return to work. It says the measures are employment not save money. Balearic Minister for Labour, Eberhard Grosske, who along with other members of the Balearic government joined the march, warned “we're at the gates of a general strike,” pointing the finger at the PP government in Madrid should the unions bring the country to a standstill next month. Eberhard Grosske said that the new reductions in employment benefit will hit a very high number of workers permanently employed in the Balearics. Balearic UGT secretary general Lorenzo Bravo said that yesterday's turn out was one of the largest in recent years and one of the biggest cries against central government policies in the Balearics. Bravo warned that a general strike is looking increasingly likely because of the huge level of support from the workers. Union bosses were also pleased that yesteday's march passed off with no incidents. There was a large police presence, but the 2'000 protesters reached the Parc de la Mar for a mass rally and where a giant paella was being dished out peacefully. In Ibiza, according to the Local Police, around 400 people, all in favour of the general strike, participated in the Labour Day march.


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