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Spanish unions ready to strike over wage agreements

SPANISH labour unions are prepared to strike if business groups fail to respect wage agreements, the leader of Spain's largest union said today.

The Confederation of Spanish Business (CEOE) has blocked existing wage agreements affecting four million workers, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) head Ignacio Fernandez Toxo said in an interview with daily paper Cinco Dias.

"If business groups want to renew talks on labour reform and talk about longer term wage agreements, for example over three years, then the first thing they should do is unblock wage negotiations," Toxo said.

"There will be social unrest if this doesn't happen, particularly over the next four months as we won't sit with our arms folded...We will call for strike action."

Talks on labour market reforms between the government, unions and business groups broke down in July.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met union and business representatives last Friday to try to avert the threat of industrial action.

A revision of Spain's labour market, which has some of the strictest lay-off laws amongst developed nations, is essential if the government wishes to stem soaring unemployment hit by the collapse of the construction sector, economists say.

But Zapatero has ruled out cutting workers' benefits and unions have promised a general strike if any such move is taken.


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