Spanish unions called yesterday 's strike to protest a jobs reform that makes it cheaper for companies to fire people and dismantles the nationwide system of collective bargaining. The labour reform has taken away workers' rights my parents managed to win. This strike is just a starting point for protests and I see things ramping up in the coming months, said train driver Miguel Pastor, 40, at Madrid's Atocha station. But union power has been slowly disintegrating, with fewer than a fifth of Spanish employees currently affiliated with the country's two biggest unions, Comisiones Obreras and UGT. Under the circumstances the unions have to do something, but they don't really think it will do any good, said Jose Ramon Pin, professor at business school IESE. Economy Minister Luis de Guindos dismissed unions' calls to change it. Regardless of whether (the strike) is considered a success or failure, the government is not going to alter the reform one jot, he said on Wednesday. The fear of job losses may be a major deterrent for many workers to take part in the strike. I've been waiting half an hour for the bus, but I have to go to work. I have a little girl and cannot stay away. The strike won't do anything to solve the crisis, said 35-year-old office worker Alma Callet. Former PP Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar backed down on his labour reform plans in 2002 after a general strike shut down a large part of the country. And following Sunday's regional election result, which denied Rajoy the absolute majority he had hoped would reinforce his mandate for spending cuts, the prime minister will have to measure his next steps to avoid sparking more protests. He said on Tuesday his administration would pass a very, very, austere budget today and this year's deficit reduction goal of 5.3 percent of gross domestic product implies nominal cuts of at least 35 billion euros ($46.63 billion). The strict budget is meant to keep borrowing costs down as well as working towards meeting the EU's 3 percent deficit limit next year, but some economists say spending cuts will deepen the looming recession.
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