Portugal police march for better wages

Lisbon (AFP) –


Thousands of Portuguese police officers Thursday marched through Lisbon to demand better pay and conditions in the first major protest since the Socialists were returned to office in elections last month.

Wearing plainclothes, the police demanded "fair wages and decent working conditions," as they upped pressure on the government of Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who last winter faced protests from public sector workers demanding salary hikes after years of austerity-squeezed purchasing power.

The head of the main police union, Paulo Rodrigues, told AFP the government had so far remained deaf to their demands.

"The ministers are the same and nothing important has changed on these issues in the past four years -- this creates instability and hits our teams' efficiency," complained Rodrigues.

"Over the past ten years many bonuses have been withdrawn," complained Ismael Duarte, a 52-year-old police officer from the central town of Tomar who said he was earning around 1,500 euros ($1,750) before tax a month -- a sum which he said had barely risen in 20 years.

"Portugal cannot be one of the world's safest countries and maltreat its forces of law and order in this way. We deserve nore respect," added another officer Antonio Barreira, 45.