Spanish unions will fight pay cuts in court

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Spanish unions said yesterday that they would fight austerity moves in the courts after the Socialist government said it would introduce a cut in public sector wages through a royal decree, bypassing parliament.

The UGT union, which was already planning a public sector strike, said it would contest the legality of the cuts. They were part of plans for budget reductions of €15bn (£13bn) announced last week. "We are without doubt going to challenge this royal decree," said Julio Lacuerda, from Spain's second largest union.

A government spokesman said the cuts, including an average 5 per cent wage decrease this year for civil servants, would be passed at a cabinet meeting. The pay reductions would be felt in pay cheques from June.

"My impression is that the unions want to make noise without calling a general strike, because a general strike would hurt the Socialist government deeply," said Pedro Schwartz, economics professor at the San Pablo University in Madrid.

Spain's government announced more spending cuts last week to accelerate a reduction in its budget deficit after the EU and IMF approved $1 trillion (£698bn) in emergency funds for weak euro economies.