Friday

17th Nov 2017

Anti-austerity general strike shuts down Portugal

  • The words 'General Strike' painted on a Lisbon wall (Photo: iolanda)

Much of Portugal was paralysed on Thursday (24 November) as a general strike against EU-IMF austerity shut down most of the country’s transport networks and public services.

Most flights in and out of the holiday destination country were cancelled, with airports in the capital, Faro and Porto particularly badly hit. Much of public transport ground to a halt as Lisbon’s metro service was shuttered and the main train operator said that it experienced heavy disruption.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Workers at ports, municipal buildings and the post office had also struck, according to the CGTP union, while factories in many parts of the country were closed, hospitals provided only emergency services and rubbish collection was suspended.

Demonstrations saw thousands of mostly young people descend on the streets of Lisbon, although, in a counterpoint to images seen from fellow EU-IMF bail-out nation Greece, the marches were largely peaceful apart from scuffles in front of the parliament building, where seven protesters were arrested and one policeman hospitalised.

The action, the second general strike in the country since the crisis began, saw rebel officers who participated in the 1974 revolution join the protests as marchers chanted: “Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, our struggle is international,” according to local reports.

The government was eager to downplay attendance numbers, saying that only 11 percent of public workers participated in the strike, but union leaders have insisted it was one of the biggest in the country's history, drawing a larger crowd than in last year's strike, when an estimated 3 million people took place.

“It was a strike with a very strong signal against the impoverishment of the country,” said Carvalho da Silva, leader of CGTP, Portugal’s largest trade union, at an evening press conference.

“There is a real sense of outrage,” he added.

The industrial action took place as ratings agency Fitch decided to lower the country’s rating to junk status, from BBB- to BB+, amid “a worsened European outlook”.

"The country's large fiscal imbalances, high indebtedness across all sectors, and adverse macroeconomic outlook mean the sovereign's credit profile is no longer consistent with an investment-grade rating," the agency said.

Unions mounted the strike on the eve of debates in the parliament on Friday on the proposed budget for 2012, which includes tax hikes and spending cuts to comply with bail-out demands from the EU and the International Monetary Fund. The bill is to be voted on next week.

Portugal applied for financial assistance earlier this year after a package of austerity measures proposed by the then minority centre-left government was defeated.

In a prelude to recent elections in Spain, a ballot in June saw an historically low turnout and gave the centre-right People’s Party of current prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho an absolute majority.

Union leaders have said they would not hesitate to call for more action if the government continues to refuse to negotiate a budget that might enjoy a larger popular backing.

“Do they want a climate of dialogue or one of social conflict? We don’t want to, but if the government forces us we will go on another strike,” said João Proença of UGT, a socialist trade union.

Separately, Mario Soares, the country’s first democratically elected president after the fall of dictatorship in 1974, has launched a manifesto saying that international finance is threatening democracy.

"We cannot democratically salute the so-called Arab spring and be afraid of [occupying] our own streets and squares. We cannot sit back and ignore the growth in international financial anarchy and the dismantling of countries, which puts into question the very survival of the European Union."

Portugal in crisis after 1mn say No to austerity

Portugal is in political crisis as it struggles with a major popular backlash in the face of troika-approved austerity measures that would raise social contributions for employees.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  2. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  3. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  4. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  5. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  6. German coalition talks in near collapse
  7. EU to proclaim 'pillar' of social rights in Gothenburg
  8. Lower waste targets still not low enough for EU states