However, while austerity-hit countries such as Spain and Portugal saw a high turnout of striking workers, wealthier countries such as Germany and Denmark experienced only piecemeal action.
In Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions did not hold a protest saying it had already arranged a demonstration for Nov 24. A small number of people attended a protest by the United Left Alliance.
The 17 countries that use the euro are expected to fall into recession when official figures are released tomorrow. Meanwhile, unemployment across the eurozone has reached a record 11.6% with countries like Spain and Greece hitting the 25% mark.
With no end in sight to the economic hardship, workers were trying to take a stand yesterday.
“There is a social emergency in the south,” said Bernadette Segol, secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation. “All recognise that the policies carried out now are unfair and not working.”
Spain’s General Workers’ Union said the nationwide stoppage, the second this year, was being observed by nearly all workers in the automobile, energy, shipbuilding and construction industries. The country, left reeling by a series of austerity measures designed to prevent it from asking for a full-blown international bailout, is mired in recession with 50% unemployment among the under-25s.
The Spanish strike shut down most schools and while hospitals operated with a skeleton staff.
In neighbouring, bailed-out Portugal the second general strike in eight months left commuters stranded as trains ground to a virtual halt and the Lisbon subway shut down. Some 200 flights to and from Portugal — about half the daily average — were cancelled.
Airports across Europe suffered from the strikes, were forced to cancel flights to and from striking nations.
In Belgium, a 24-hour rail stoppage and scattered strikes through the south of the nation disrupted daily life. Both the Thalys and Eurostar high-speed rail services that connect Brussels with London and Paris were severely disrupted.
“Austerity means cuts in the public services and public companies and also cuts in the buying power for the working class,” said Belgian socialist union leader Filip Peers.
However, Philippe de Buck, the chief of Eurobusiness the Brussels-based EU employers’ federation, took a different view.
“If you start striking at national level and in companies you only will harm the economy,” he said. “And it is not the right thing to do today.”
* Read more:
Dole figures to remain a big problem until 2015
Workers across EU present a united front
Bankers’ pensions move ‘essential’
Barnardos urge investment in needy families