Workers in Portugal’s two main union federations joined one of the biggest general strikes in the country’s history last Thursday.
The strike was against austerity measures being imposed by prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho.
Coelho is making cuts to qualify for a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
He wants to impose cuts, closures and privatisation in health, education and public services and cut unemployment benefit. The government also plans to steal a month’s pay from public sector workers by scrapping allowances, and to force all workers to work longer.
Participation in last week’s strike was up significantly.
Miguel Portas, an MP for the Left Bloc, told Socialist Worker, “This was the biggest strike in Portugal for more than 20 years. All the ports and airports were closed, as was public transport, and public services operated only at a very reduced level.
“There were more people striking throughout the public sector than in the last general strike a year ago. And in the private sector too, more workers walked out in the big factories, especially in the car industry in the south.”
And in a departure from previous strikes in Portugal, the strike was accompanied by dozens of demonstrations around the country.
“Trade union marches linked up with the ‘outraged’ movement that’s been growing in Portugal this year,” said Miguel.
“These are young people who aren’t really organised in unions because they are unemployed or temporary workers. It was really interesting to see them joining the trade union struggle.”
Workers fear the government’s austerity measures could bring the same spiral of bailouts, austerity and economic misery that is being inflicted on Greece to Portugal.
“This is not the end of a process, but the beginning,” said Miguel. “This government has nothing to offer but austerity.”
And he had a message of support for those striking in Britain on Wednesday.
“The politics of austerity are being imposed by politicians across Europe. Pensions are under attack here in Portugal too. I offer you all my solidarity.”