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Workers say zealous eurozone reformers are eroding their sacred rights

Union powers and workers' protections have been severely curtailed to make Europe's struggling economies more competitive. Some say the cuts have gone further than necessary.

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Unemployed Italian railways former workers, demonstrate at a train station in Milan, Italy, Monday, April 2, where they have been protesting for the last 116 days against their dismissal with some 800 colleagues.

Luca Bruno/AP

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When European Central Bank president Mario Draghi recently told German tabloid Bild "The worst is over," he was talking about government budgets and European banks’ balance sheets. But for millions of workers across the continent, the worst of Europe's economic crisis might still be coming.

The trade unions and their supporters complain that the eurozone crisis is being used to create a different social model within Europe, a model that has lesser rights for employees, limits the influence of the unions, and grants business more power.

European workers have long enjoyed strong protection of their rights, but trade unions warn of a campaign to limit those rights, squeeze wages, raise the retirement age, and soften regulations that protect against getting fired. Such measures have been portrayed as a necessary part of bringing national debts under control and making European businesses competitive, but they go beyond what is needed to overcome the debt crisis, the unions say.

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