Friday

21st Jul 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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

Opinion

Greece needs a new plan

Two years into its third bailout, Greece needs to combine the necessary fiscal targets with a new vision. This can be done in the context of the ongoing industrial revolution.

Opinion

Ceta and pesticides: A citizens' rights issue

The trade agreement with Canada will begin to apply on 21 September. But there is still a potential conflict on the right to data protection vs. the right to access information.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  2. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  3. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  4. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  5. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  6. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  7. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary
  8. Commission: clean up diesel cars, or EU agency inevitable