Portuguese Mobilize in General Strike to Fight Austerity

Policies "punish the country" and "violate the people" say unions

Public transportation systems came to a halt across Portugal on Thursday as labor unions and other austerity opponents took to the streets to protest government economic policies that they say are killing working people and social cohesion.

After years of cuts to public programs and worker benefits in the name of solving the economic crisis that has gripped Europe since 2008, the nation's largest labor unions say it is well past time for a new approach and that austerity has proved not only ineffective, but deeply destructive.

"These austerity policies punish the country, violate the people, penalise workers and pensioners, so the strike will be a cry of resistance to these policies," said Carlos Silva, leader of the 500,000 member UGT union.

Labor's argument, as Agence France-Pressereports, was also echoed by business leaders.

"The austerity plan for Portugal was a short-term response, applied as if it were the only one possible, but today given the results, no-one can be so irresponsible as to defend it, or even worse pursue it," said the nation's four main employer confederations in a joint statement.

And the English language Portugal News reports:

The sharpening of austerity - with billions of euros in further spending cuts planned to meet the targets set by Portugal's euro-zone bailout - is among reasons cited by unions for staging the strike, which has been called by both the country's largest federations.

They are also angry at labour reforms that they say represent an attack on workers' rights.

As well as picketing at workplaces in district capitals, there are to be protests outside the Ministry of Finance and marches from downtown Lisbon to parliament.

Not only trade unions but independent groups campaigning against austerity are staging events calling for the government to resign. Public transport is expected to be among the worst affected sectors, with national and suburban rail services, and the Lisbon and Porto metro systems winding down before midnight on Wednesday.


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