Portugal propose general strike against austerity

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has said the country is living through a “national emergency” and will have to take new painful austerity measures such as public sector wage cuts in next year’s budget.

A demonstrator wearing a Guy Fawkes mask holds a banner during a protest at the Portuguese parliament as part of the United for Global Change movement in Lisbon October 15.(Reuters)

A demonstrator wearing a Guy Fawkes mask holds a banner during a protest at the Portuguese parliament as part of the United for Global Change movement in Lisbon October 15.(Reuters)

Portugal’s two largest labour unions proposed on Monday holding a general strike to protest against the government’s austerity plans, just as the centre-right administration was to present its draft budget to parliament.

Portugal has been slashing spending and hiking taxes to meet the terms of a 78 billion euro ($108 billion) EU/IMF bailout.

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has said the country is living through a “national emergency” and will have to take new painful austerity measures such as public sector wage cuts in next year’s budget.

The leaders of the 725,000-strong CGTP union and the 500,000-strong UGT said they would decide on the date of the strike on Wednesday. The two large organisations, made up of smaller member unions, represent some 90 percent of unionised workers in Portugal.

CGTP leader Manuel Carvalho da Silva told reporters the two groups had decided to take the general strike proposal to member unions.

Portugal last had a general strike in late November, which the unions said was the largest ever. The government said at the time that worker participation was low and the impact on the economy insignificant.

On Saturday, about 40,000 people marched in Portugal as part of a global day of protest against the financial elite. The turnout was one of the biggest in any country, with numbers boosted by the centre-right government’s announcement of the new batch of austerity measures.

The protesters have promised to stage new mass rallies in late November before the final vote in parliament on the budget.

Protests have been peaceful in Portugal so far and analysts generally do not expect the sort of violent strife as seen in Greece or Italy.

The government has a solid majority in parliament and is expected to easily pass its measures.

Reuters

 

 

17 October 2011 Monday