Anti-austerity strike paralyses life in Portugal
LISBON PORTUGUESE strikers halted trains, shut ports and paralysed most public transport on Thursday in protest at austerity measures and labour reforms imposed as a condition of a 78-billioneuro (65 billion pounds) EUIMF bailout.
Armenio Carlos, the new Communist leader of CGTP, the country’s largest union, wants its 700,000 members to send a signal to the centre- right government that the country will no longer tolerate the erosion of workers’ rights, lower salaries and record high unemployment.
The union could not say how many of its members had responded to the strike call, but said the country’s railway transport was crippled, including the international Lisbon-Madrid route.
Lisbon’s underground was shut at midnight. Many hospitals were only accepting emergencies.
It also said rubbish collectors, ports and some schools had shut down across the country.
There was little evidence of participation in the private sector, however, with Portugal’s biggest exporter, Volkswagen’s AutoEuropa plant, still turning out cars.
Flag carrier airline TAP was flying, and Lisbon airport functioning as normal.
Many struggled into work, unconvinced by the call to strike and reluctant to lose money in support of it.
“They go on strike and hurt us,” said Ana Maria Verissimo, 53, a cleaning lady, as she waited for one of the few buses still running in Lisbon. “This won’t resolve anything. They’ll have to find another way. If I go on strike, my pay cheque will be lower at the end of the month.” There was unusually heavy traffic around Lisbon as many were forced to take their cars to get to work.
In the central town of Coimbra there were a few buses on the streets, but the central train station was shut down. Shops were open there, as they were in Lisbon.
“I wanted to go to work just outside Coimbra but had no transportation to get there, so I was forced to stay back and am not too happy about it,” said Manuel Duarte, 47, a social worker.
“I don’t blame Europe or Germany for this crisis; they came here, lent us money and need to get something in return. Our problem was our elites, who ate all the money ... And now, as always, the poorer fellows are left to pay the bill.” The government said it would not provide any figures on participation until the strike is over.