Civil servants demonstrate for higher wages, police say 40,000 turn out in Austrian capital

VIENNA – Tens of thousands of Austrian civil servants have demonstrated for higher wages in Vienna, in a protest that shut down main avenues for hours.

Police and organizers estimate about 40,000 protesters turned up Wednesday in the largest demonstration of its kind in recent years. Among the EU’s most prosperous countries, Austria has been spared the kind of labour unrest seen elsewhere on the continent.

Civil servants in Austria include professions as varied as police officers and kindergarten teachers. Their unions are seeking a wage increase of 2.3 per cent, while the government is offering 1.7 per cent.

Some protesters carried signs reading “Less money for the banks – more for us!” — a reference to bailouts of financial institutions hit by the eurozone debt crisis.