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Portugal public sector strike disrupts schools, hospitals

Striking Portuguese nurses hold a banner that reads "We are not afraid" as they demonstrate outside the Santa Maria central hospital in Lisbon
Striking Portuguese nurses hold a banner that reads "We are not afraid" as they demonstrate outside the Santa Maria central hospital in Lisbon AFP
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Lisbon (AFP)

Hospitals cut services to a minimum, schools were closed and rubbish was left uncollected in Portugal on Friday as public workers went on strike over pay.

Trade unions are demanding that the Socialist government raise salaries, in the latest strike to hit the government of Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

The government promised in its 2019 budget to increase the salaries of the lowest paid workers but unions say the pay of around 600,000 public sector staff has been frozen for the last 10 years.

Striking nurses have already delayed thousands of operations since the start February and ignored a government order last week to get back to work.

"We're seeing lots of support in hospitals, schools and in waste collection," Armenio Carlos, secretary general of Portugal's biggest trade union the CGTP, told reporters.

Public transport workers in the capital Lisbon and the northwestern city of Porto were not on strike however.

Costa's Socialist Party is leading opinion polls eight months ahead of legislative elections, as the country emerges from a period of austerity triggered by the global financial crisis.

But it has come under fire from the UGT, Portugal's second biggest and traditionally pro-socialist trade union.

"We are witnessing a revolt by the public and the unions" against a government which "gave high expectations but below par results", its secretary general Carlos Silva said.

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