A general strike is looking even more likely this morning after political representatives from the country's six left wing autonomous governments, including the Balearics, walked out of top level government talks in Madrid yesterday. Balearic Minister for Labour, Eberhard Grosske, said “what we've seen is that the government's labour reforms are not popular with anybody, neither the left wing regional governments nor those controlled by the ruling Partido Popular.” Grosske said that the government has one final opportunity to sit down and discuss the reforms. The Balearic government is leading the lobby to persuade Madrid to reconsider its reform plans or face the consequences of a general strike which, while the Balearic government has not condoned, it has neither condemned. Labour unions have threatened to call a general strike unless Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's government withdraws plans to tighten unemployment benefit rules for the country's 2.4m jobless. Grosske and his team are prepared to talk, but the unions have made it clear that they will not get involved it talks “unless the government withdraws its reforms”. Aznar wants to deny unemployment benefit to those who refuse job offers within a 50km radius of their home town. He believes the lack of labour mobility is one of the main reasons that the unemployment rate remains the highest in the EU.

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