European unions plan protest over living costs

EU

European labor unions hope 35,000 people will join a street protest over worsening living standards when finance ministers meet in Slovenia next week.

“Europe’s workers all face the same problems – shrinking purchasing power, wage moderation and wage inequalities,” the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said in a statement. Finance ministers and central bankers from the 15-country euro zone meet in Slovenia on April 4 and will be joined by their counterparts from the rest of the European Union’s 27 countries on April 5. The protest will take place in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. “At least 35,000 union members from across Europe will take part, including European trade union leaders,” the umbrella body for trade unions across the continent said on Thursday.

Inflation has soared in recent months primarily because of record world prices for basic food commodities such as wheat and milk, and oil. The annual inflation rate hit a record 3.3% in the euro zone in February and 3.4% in the EU as a whole. In Slovenia, the meeting’s host which holds the EU’s rotating presidency until the end of June, it hit 6.4%.

The ETUC often accuses the European Central Bank of an overly harsh interest-rate policy in the euro zone and has told ECB boss Jean-Claude Trichet to stop warning against sizeable pay rises. Soaring food prices have sparked riots in poorer regions of the world, notably this month in Cameroon, where President Paul Biya responded by raising state salaries and suspended customs duties on fish, rice and cooking oil. (Reuters)

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