Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

WEB NEWS

Israel and Hamas battle online over public opinion

Read more

FOCUS

Can Chancellor Merkel's winning streak last?

Read more

FOCUS

Hunger in a fertile land...

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting (part 2)

Read more

  • Live: Air Algérie flight missing over northern Mali

    Read more

  • ‘Many’ French passengers on board missing Algerian plane

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death arrives in Italy

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

  • Ceasefire agreed for Central African Republic

    Read more

  • Can Jew-kissing-Arab selfie give peace a viral chance?

    Read more

  • In pictures: Thousands march for Gaza peace in Paris

    Read more

  • France charges Swiss bank UBS with tax fraud

    Read more

  • Israel faces heightened diplomatic pressure as Gaza violence rages

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

  • Bomb attacks leave scores dead in north Nigeria

    Read more

Europe

Portugal brought to standstill as workers strike

© AFP

Video by Catherine Nicholson

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-06-27

Members of Portugal’s two biggest unions, which together represent around one million workers, staged a general strike against government austerity measures Thursday, causing disruption to public transport, flights and hospitals.

The fourth general strike against austerity to be held by Portugal’s workers in two years brought the country to a near standstill on Thursday, as public transport was halted, flights grounded and hospital operations cancelled.

Most services operated by the national train company CP, the Lisbon subway and city bus companies - all of them state-run - were cancelled, forcing commuters to use their own vehicles and congesting traffic in the capital Lisbon and Porto, the second-largest city.

Airport management company ANA reported that 22 flights were cancelled by 10am, 17 of them at Lisbon airport.

Some health centres around the country stayed closed, Portuguese media reported, while hospitals rescheduled operations and medical appointments.

The strike was called by Portugal’s two biggest unions – the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers and the General Workers' Union.

Together, they represent about one million workers, close to ten per cent of Portugal’s 10.6 million population. Thursday's walkout was only their fourth joint protest in 25 years.

'The country is refusing to back down'

The unions want the country’s centre-right government to ease off austerity measures that they say are contributing to Portugal’s downward economic spiral and surging unemployment rate.

Unemployment in Portugal currently stands at 17.8 percent, while a third straight year of recession is forecast for 2013.

"The majority of workers are against the measures this government has brought in and that's why they're striking,” said transport union representative Abilio Carvalho. “This country is refusing to back down... what is happening in Portugal is very serious."

The latest government plans to upset the unions include increasing the working time of state employees to 40 hours a week from 35, increasing their monthly pension deductions while lowering their pension entitlements and laying off some 50,000 government workers out of the total of about 583,000.

Portugal has been locked into a deficit-reducing austerity program as part of the conditions for receiving a 78 billion euros ($102 billion) bailout two years ago from the so-called troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

'Some people have to go to work'

But although many among the Portuguese public agree that austerity measures are harming the country, not everyone is backing the strike.

"They have the right to strike, but they should keep transport services going. Some people have to go to work and have no choice,” said one woman.

"I won't strike. I have to go to work, otherwise I won't get paid by my boss and I need the money,” commented another.

The government made no immediate comment on the strike's turnout, though Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho told Parliament on Wednesday that Portugal "needs fewer strikes and more work and discipline".

Coelho approval ratings are currently at a record low, but with a sizeable majority in parliament, his centre-right coalition government has been largely immune to opposition calls to unseat it.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-06-27

  • PORTUGAL

    Portugal austerity budget raises pension age, cuts jobs

    Read more

  • PORTUGAL - REPORT

    Portuguese youth determined not to give up in face of spiralling unemployment

    Read more

  • EUROPEAN UNION

    Clashes erupt amid Europe's anti-austerity protests

    Read more

COMMENT(S)