Spanish Women Stage Strike to Protest Gender Inequality

(Bloomberg) -- Women in Spain are holding a 24-hour strike to protest gender inequality, hitting some public services in cities including Madrid and Barcelona.

Unions have called for two-hour stoppages throughout Thursday as part of a nationwide protest organizers describe as a feminist general strike. Public transport is running reduced services and railway operator Renfe said it would operate 65 percent of mid-distance and 72 percent of high-speed and long-distance trains. Marches have been called in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao and other cities to stress the contribution of female workers.

The two main unions said more than 5 million workers participated in a two-hour stoppage earlier in the day with a second one planned later on Thursday.

Spanish Women Stage Strike to Protest Gender Inequality

The strike is part of a global campaign for gender equality unleashed by the #MeToo movement last year and coincides with the annual International Women’s Day on March 8. The pay gap between male and female staff widened last year, according to data monitored by the World Economic Forum.

The Spanish government has said it respects the decision to strike although it has refrained from supporting it openly. On Wednesday, the Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz Santamaria said women still face sexist language and discriminatory practices at work.

Speaking from Valencia, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who initially downplayed concerns about the gender pay gap in Spain, said his administration is fully committed to promoting equality.

Earlier, the Spanish public broadcaster said its female journalists would not participate in programming as usual while the hosts of the two most-watched television morning shows canceled their programming too. El Pais newspaper said its female journalists would strike without pay for the day after reaching an accord with unions.

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