April 2012        

International

General strike in Portugal


Portugal’s largest union confederation, the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP), vowed to bring the country to a standstill on 22 March for a 24-hour general strike, besides filling the streets in cities and towns with demonstrators against austerity measures and labour “reforms” that have been pushing up unemployment.
     This protest took place five months after the CGTP and the Workers’ General Union (UGT) jointly held a general strike against the government’s cuts in the public sector. The reasons for the strike included opposing the austerity measures and labour law, the increasing unemployment and poverty, and the killing of the welfare state.
     The general secretary of the CGTP, Arménio Carlos, stated before the strike that the present government is destroying the whole country, and that it has become difficult to mobilise workers, who are struggling with insufficient money and intimidation by employers.
     The CGTP called this protest after the government introduced “reforms” of the labour market, reducing the number of paid holidays for all employees and making it easier to fire workers. These changes result from the IMF and EU “bail-out” of €78 billion for Portugal.
     The country’s average economic growth has been less than 1 per cent per year for the last decade. Unemployment this year reached 14½ per cent.
     Portugal was paralysed by the general strike. Many large industries were closed: transport companies, ports, ferries, trains, buses, schools, health services, some banks, and government departments, including courts, post offices, museums, libraries. Only TAP, the Portuguese airline, did not respond to the call.
     Arménio Carlos, on closing the general strike at a rally in front of the parliament, announced new protests during the following weeks. Following the general strike the CGTP is to request an urgent meeting with the prime minister, Passos Coelho, demanding the reversal of the labour changes and the economic policies.

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