PORTUGAL

Portugal goes on strike: "We're becoming Greece!"

 Portugal was paralysed by a major strike on Thursday, called by the country's largest trade union to protest against the government's austerity measures. Two of our Portuguese Observers explained how these cuts are hurting them.

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This banner reads, in Portuguese: "General strike!"

 

Portugal was paralysed by a major strike on Thursday, called by the country's largest trade union to protest against the government's austerity measures. Two of our Portuguese Observers explained how these cuts are hurting them.

 

In Portugal's major cities, public transportation grounded to a halt. Many schools had to send students home because teachers stayed away from work. Hospitals ran a basic service as doctors and nurses marched in the streets.

 

Portugal has been praised by the European Union for abiding by the terms of its 78-billion euro bailout, granted last May, but the government's cuts are highly criticised at home. For the next three years, the debt-ridden country will have to continue hiking taxes and cutting public sector wages and welfare. Meanwhile, Portugal is struggling with a record 14.8 percent unemployment rate.

"I'm my own boss, but I decided to strike today, anyway"

Rogerio Barroso is a lawyer. He lives in the village of Monte Francisco, in southern Portugal.

 

I'm my own boss, but I decided to strike today anyway. I told my employees not to come to work either. Boss's orders!

 

The government's austerity measures have severely impacted people all over Portugal, including in my village. We're becoming Greece ! Every day, life is getting harder. Many elderly people live here, and they've seen their pensions severely cut. Because medical aid has been reduced too, they have to pay much more for their medications. It's a sad way to live one's last years. The youth, meanwhile, are lined up at the employment office. Literally lined up – I see hundreds of them waiting for non-existent work when I walk by there. Many young people are leaving Portugal to go abroad.

 

My clients increasingly have trouble paying me. Many of the people I defend are unable to pay back loans they've taken out with banks. Everyone is in debt here – in good times, they were encouraged to take out loans for cars, houses, etc. Now, there is increasing frustration with banks, who are sucking people dry in an already difficult time.

 

On Wednesday, just ahead of the strike, anonymous protesters walled up a BNP bank in the city of Cascais, near Lisbon. They tagged on the wall: "Enough robbery."

"All the rights we won after the revolution are being eroded, one by one"

Thérèse Deleu de Aguiar lives in Porto. She is retired.

 

It was incredible to see how paralysed Porto was today. There were no trains running, no subway either – the only way people could get around was by taxi, and there were not enough to go around. So most people had to stay home, whether they meant to skip work or not.

 

The magnitude of this strike comes as no surprise to me. The government is taking everything away from us. All the rights we won after the revolution in 1974 are being eroded, one by one. Employers used to pay a 13th and 14th month of salary – that's gone. They're cutting vacation days, too. Ambulances used to be a free service – now we have to pay. Medical aid is being slashed ; our hospitals are on the brink of bankruptcy. One of my friends has a lump in her breast; usually, doctors would operate on it, but they're only doing the minimum amount of operations now, so since it's non-cancerous they won't operate. Meanwhile, my daughter, who is a single mother earning 750 euros a month, no longer receives any government aid to help raise her daughter.

 

I plan on moving soon, because I can no longer afford my rent – and all the stores in my neighbourhood are closing, one by one. It's becoming a ghost town. Our state is failing, and our government is failing us.

 

Early on Thursday morning, riot police forcibly removed sit-down protesters in Lisbon. Video published on YouTube by Precarios Inflexiveis.