madrid

 

Tens of thousands of angry protesters staged traditional May Day rallies in several countries of the crisis-wracked eurozone on Wednesday, as fury erupted at demonstrations inBangladeshafter a deadly building collapse.

Thousands took to the street in Spain, some brandishing flags reading "6,202,700", a reference to the record number out of work in the recession-hit country. "This austerity is ruining and killing us," read one banner inMadrid, a reference to the unpopular German-led policy of squeezing budgets in response to the eurozone's three-year debt crisis.

Jose Antonio Sebastian, a 50-year-old engineer, said he was one of the lucky ones still in work but feared he would soon be joining the ranks of the unemployed, now 27 percent of the working population.

"With the speed at which we are destroying jobs inSpain, I think this will soon happen to me as well. We have no choice but to look for jobs abroad," he complained.

Meanwhile, a strike inGreecestopped ferry services and disrupted public transport inAthensas workers marched against austerity in a country where the jobless rate is also around 27 percent.

Waving brightly coloured protest flags, nearly 13,000 people answered the call of unions and leftist groups to rally in the country, facing its sixth year of recession and making painful job cuts to appease international creditors.

"We only feel insecurity, there is no motive for us to study, nothing is certain," 21-year-old student Giorgos Tavoularis told AFP, fearful of the high rates of unemployment - a staggering 59 percent among the under-25s.

On Sunday, the Greek parliament voted to adopt a law that will allow the dismissal of 15,000 civil servants as part of austerity measures imposed by the indebted country's international creditors in return for desperately needed bailout funds. In France, where unemployment has also hit a record high of 3.2 million people, the National Front party of extreme rightist Marine Le Pen, which also traditionally marches on May 1, called for a light of hope in a France "locked in the darkness of Europe."

France "is sinking into an absurd policy of endless austerity... because it's about always saying yes to Brussels, to Berlin of course, and to financial moguls in all circumstances," she said.

Pope Francis used a private mass in his residence to mark May Day to decry "slave labour" and urged political leaders to fight unemployment in a sweeping critique of "selfish profit" which he said "goes against God."

He said conditions in the Bangladesh factory that collapsed last week killing more than 400 workers were "called slave labour" with employees paid just 38 euros ($50) a month.

In Dhaka, protesters held red banners and flags chanting "Hang the killers, Hang the Factory Owners" after the devastating collapse of the garment factory, as rescuers warned the final toll could be more than 500. Police put the number of protesters at the main rally at more than 20,000, and there were smaller-scale protests elsewhere in the Bangladeshi capital and in other cities.

In Turkey's biggest city Istanbul, police fired tear gas and water cannon at stone-throwing protesters trying to gather for a banned demonstration.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin revived the Soviet-era May Day tradition of handing out "Hero of Labour" awards. "Creating a strong, wealthy Russia can only be possible with hard work," said Putin, as he awarded medals to five people ranging from top conductor Valery Gergiev to a Siberbian coalminer.