Spanish workers block roads, rail in cuts protest

Government set to pass deepest budget reductions in 30 years

MADRID (Reuters) — Spanish workers blocked streets and railways in Madrid on Friday in protests against new austerity measures they said hurt ordinary people more than the bankers and politicians blamed for the country's economic crisis.

Spain is set to pass the deepest budget reductions in 30 years on Friday, including a second round of wage cuts for civil servants.

Traffic was blocked in central Madrid for hours as hundreds of public workers —- many wearing t-shirts, either black in support of striking miners or green for public school teachers — shouted "Cuts for bankers, not workers" in front of ministries and public offices.

Workers for the state railway Renfe blocked train tracks in the morning and promised sporadic stoppages throughout the day, while workers for local public TV station TeleMadrid blocked a highway outside the city.

"Civil servants tolerated the first round of cuts because we wanted to show solidarity, but this has reached a limit," Pedro, a 41-year-old nurse said. "It can't always be the same people paying the price."

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled fresh austerity measures this week designed to slash 65 billion euros (C$80 billion) from the public deficit by 2014 as he tries to dodge a full state bailout after requesting a European rescue for the country's ailing banks in June.

Crippled banks, highly indebted regions and the prospect of a recession being prolonged beyond 2013 sent Spain's borrowing costs to levels close to being unsustainable and pushed the country closer to following Greece, Ireland and Portugal in seeking external help.

It was the third consecutive day of protests since Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the package on Wednesday.

A number of policemen took the unusual step of joining the protests.

More than 100 public workers also gathered outside the presidential palace where Rajoy's ministers convened to approve the new budget plan, whistling and booing.

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