Socialist Worker

Portuguese workers say they will not accept austerity cuts

by Jose Biern Boyd Perfeito
Issue No. 2230

A huge general strike against austerity rocked Portugal on Wednesday of last week. Millions of workers took part in the action, which was organised by the CGTP-IN and UGT union federations.

It was only the second general strike involving both federations since the revolution against the fascist regime in 1974.

About 80 percent of workers took part in the strike, with the capital Lisbon brought to a standstill.

The strike hit transport, health, education, the councils, mail services and telecommunications.

The Portuguese people want to give a red card to the minority Socialist Party government of Jose Socrates.

It is following neoliberal policies with the support of the right wing Social Democratic Party.

People oppose the EU’s policies, which bailed out the banks and the financial sector at the expense of people and workers.

The radical Left Bloc party and the Communist Party voted against the 2011 budget, which cuts public sector wages by 5 percent, freezes pensions and raises VAT from 21 to 23 percent.

Jorge Costa of the Left Bloc told Socialist Worker, “Three million people on strike is a big no to the Socialist government, their right wing partners, the EU and the IMF.

“The general strike showed that the austerity consensus that bankers and bosses are trying to build is not working.

“Mass struggles are to come. They have to be on a European-wide basis.”

Portugal is experiencing the worst crisis in living memory. About 600,000 Portuguese aged over 65 are malnourished or suffer outright hunger. Only half of the unemployed receive any money from the state. And more cuts are coming.

Some schools are thinking about opening at the weekend and during holidays to serve meals to students, knowing that this is the only full meal that they have.

The same government that calls for sacrifices from the people allows larger companies to pay dividends to shareholders before the end of 2010 so that they are not taxed by the increase imposed by the 2011 budget.

The leaders of the unions said that this is just the beginning of the fight against this attack on workers, with more concerted action planned by the two unions.

The state attacked some pickets with one of the more serious incidents taking place at 5am at the central post office in Lisbon.

Police charged the picket line using pepper gas.

Unfortunately, the unions did not organise a demonstration to show the power of the movement, though people gathered in Rossio Square in central Lisbon.

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Tue 30 Nov 2010, 18:17 GMT
Issue No. 2230
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