By Humphrey Carter and Paul Day

PALMA AND MADRID
THE Balearic government yesterday announced that it is going to save 200 million euros this year and will look at raising taxes for top earners in the regions as well as possible environmental tax.

Government spokesperson, the Minister for Tourism Joana Barcelo, said that the local government will be studying a series of austerity measures over the coming days but guaranteed that some 700 million euros of investment in public projects will go head with the cuts and savings coming in other areas of the administration.

However, the austerity measures announced by national and regional governments this week have angered the unions and there have already been a number of protests across the Balearics over the past few days.

Spain's largest union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) could call a general strike to protest against planned austerity measures, its head said yesterday, although analysts regarded wider Greek-style unrest as unlikely.

CCOO head Ignacio Fernandez Toxo said he would “probably” invoke a general strike over the Socialist government's “right-wing economic policy, financial speculation and the markets.” While Toxo did not say how long the strike might be, a CCOO spokesman said industrial action normally lasted just one day.

CCOO and Spain's second largest union confederation, the UGT, have already called a June 8 strike of civil servants angry over pay cuts imposed by the government's austerity campaign.

Asked whether the UGT would join a general strike, a spokeswoman said: “We don't rule anything out. Our position hasn't changed.”

NO PUBLIC SUPPORT
The CCOO and UGT have also promised to fight civil servant wage cuts, which form part of a 15-billion euro austerity package announced by the government on Thursday, in the courts.

Some economists said a general strike was unlikely to draw wide participation from unionised workers since many of them hold relatively safe permanent contracts and could be loath to jeopardize them by walking out.

Only some 16 percent of Spanish workers are union-affiliated and the work force is deeply split between those holding permanent contracts, most likely to have union members, and those with temporary contracts who often have no representation.

About 90 percent of the estimated 3 million people made unemployed since 2007, in the nation of 46 million, held temporary contracts, often without union representation.

The unions themselves, closely tied to the Socialist government, could also be uncomfortable provoking widescale unrest against Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The daily newspaper Expansion reported last year that state payouts to the unions has risen by around 50 percent since 2006 and by 10 percent in the last 2 years as Spain suffered its worst economic slump in living memory. “The unions don't want to lose that ...they are trying to wear the government down. That's really what this is all about,” said Ismael Crespo at think-tank Fundacion Ortega & Gasset. “There will be a public sector strike and other spot demonstrations, but a general strike won't have popular support.” Spain's government, the unions and business representatives are in three-way talks on a much anticipated labour reform and are expected to reach agreement some time next week.