Portugal schools, hospitals strike against new cuts

AFP , Friday 8 Nov 2013

Unions in Portugal are protesting new austerity measures, unveiled in mid-October for the 2014 budget, in response to the country's severe economic crunch

Demonstrators from the CGTP union participate in a protest outside the parliament in Lisbon November 1, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Hospital workers, teachers and rubbish collectors launched a 24-hour strike across Portugal on Friday to decry a new round of public sector wage and pension cuts in the bailed-out nation.

Banners stretched out along the railings of hospitals proclaimed: "Against the dismantling of the state" and "Hard-won rights cannot be stolen".

Uncollected rubbish bins overflowed, littering the pavements of the capital Lisbon.

School gates were closed.

"The Portuguese will not accept more salary cuts and sacrifices," said Ana Avoila, coordinator of the public sector unions, which estimated turnout for the strike varied between 70 percent and 100 percent.

Portugal's state secretary for public services, Helder Rosalino, said she could "understand the discouragement of public workers" but she did not expect turnout to exceed 20 percent.

The 24-hour strike was launched jointly by public worker federations linked to the country's two main unions, the CGTP, which is close to the Communist Party, and the UGT, close to the Socialist Party.

Unions are protesting new austerity measures unveiled in mid-October for the 2014 budget.

The budget increases the public sector work week to 40 hours from 35, cuts retirement pensions by 10 percent and lowers the salaries of those earning more than 600 euros gross a month by between 2.5 percent and 12 percent.

"If public sector workers want to bother the government that's fine, but not at the cost of the children," said 44-year-old construction worker Manuel Paulo, who found the gates closed at his 10-year-old son's primary school in northern Lisbon.

The public sector protest follows a series of strikes in the transport sector, including railway and city bus services, which will culminate in a demonstration on Saturday in the capital.

Workers at river ferry companies Soflusa and Transtejo, which link Lisbon and its southern district, were holding partial strikes Friday.

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