By Tiago Gillot
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Eurozone crisis: Portugal

This article is over 13 years, 6 months old
In Portugal two stages of austerity measures have been announced.
Issue 348

The first was cuts in social benefits and unemployment benefits which will be cut by around 15 percent. The rules have changed so now the unemployed are forced to accept jobs. This is social blackmail. The bosses and politicians want to force the unemployed to take lower-waged jobs and so push down wages for everyone. We are also facing cuts in public investment and a public sector wage freeze.

The second package includes an increase in VAT. People already have very low wages so these are very harsh measures. The government is also privatising the last publicly owned sections of the financial system – energy, postal services and an insurance company currently owned by the only state-run bank.

The Portuguese government has allied itself with the right wing opposition to do this, to claim they represent a consensus. The society they face is fearful – workers are scared of losing their jobs. But there is a response: the workers’ movement is still well organised. We have a protest on 29 May – the first big protest against austerity in Portugal.

It is impossible to see how this will go. A general strike would be the only answer, but we face problems. Many people can’t strike, for example the unemployed – unemployment has doubled in a couple of years. Also many precarious workers don’t have contracts and are not in unions. But we are building bridges, and on 29 May the precarious workers’ movement will be on the demonstration.

The government knows this mobilisation is just the start. The prime minister had said these austerity measures would continue until 2011, and now he says it will be longer. We don’t know when this will stop; we just know it depends on what struggle we can build.

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