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Portuguese wage major strike against austerity measures

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Public service workers in Portugal have engaged in a general strike to protest government austerity measures that have led to the nation’s worst economic slump since the 1970’s.

The Thursday protest effort, which was called by Portuguese trade unions, began peacefully although it brought the nation’s public transport system to a halt, prompting anger and despair among those who decided to go to work but still blamed government policies for record unemployment levels.

Previous protest efforts and strikes against the harsh terms of Portugal’s 78 billion euro ($100 billion) bailout by the European Union and IMF in 2011 have mostly been non-violent, unlike the protest events in Greece and more recently in Brazil and Turkey.

This is while the unions are hoping that the fourth general strike in two years will prompt the government to boost economic growth and ease the austerity measures, including the sharpest tax hikes in living memory this year.

Trains in the nation were not running while metro and ferry services stopped as well in Lisbon. Many bus routes were also suspended, forcing those who chose to go to work into taking longer, alternative journeys that were served by fewer buses than usual.

Furthermore, trash removal was halted in many cities and towns and the fishing fleet in the southern Algarve region stayed in port. The state-owned airline TAP has warned of possible disruption but has so far canceled no flights.

This is while the CGTP and UGT unions leading today’s strike altogether have more than 1 million members.

However, support outside the public transport sector appeared erratic and the government seemed unlikely to back down as the center-right coalition government holds a comfortable majority in parliament and is unlikely to change course from its goal of ending the bailout deal by mid-2014.

Portugal, meanwhile, still faces climbing financial troubles, with yields on its government debt rising sharply in recent weeks, overriding the plan to entirely resume financing its budget deficit by borrowing on debt markets.


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