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Grandparents strike: unions urge OAPs to 'just say no' and 'forget the guilt'

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In economic hard times, grandparents really come into their own. Across the world, they often provide essential childcare and domestic cover for hardworking parents forced to work long hours to make ends meet.

But in Spain this week a call has gone out urging grandparents to down tools -- well, rattles and stuffed animals at any rate -- and go out on strike.

Pushing slogans like "learn to say no" and "don't feel guilty", the UGT general workers' union has called on Spanish grandparents to join this Wednesday's 'Huelga General' to protest against government spending cuts and changes to employment law.

MarÌa Teresa LÛpez, an economics professor at the Complutense University in Madrid, says most grandparents are working as "full-time childminders"

"They are filling in for parents, effectively bringing their grandchildren up and that is quite a different role to being a grandparent."

Indeed, statistics show half of all grandparents in Spain look after their grandchildren every day -- and one in eight do so for more than nine hours a day.

"It is a growing problem because grandparents are cheaper than childminders and they are an easy option when the economy is as bad as it is now," said Dr Jaime RodrÌguez, of Spain's Society of Gerontology. "That is probably fine for most of them, but some cannot cope."

UGT has called on grandparents to join the September 29th general strike to highlight the extent to which unpaid childcare is propping up the economy.

"We want grandparents to strike to prove they are a key part of the way this country functions," said Manuel Pastrana, a UGT official from Andalucia.

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