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Portuguese unions stage general strike over austerity

Two large Portuguese unions are staging a 24-hour general strike in Portugal to protest against the center-right government’s austerity measures. They claim spiraling unemployment has come in the wake of cost cutting.

Public transport came to a standstill Thursday as Portugal's two main trade unions started a one-day general strike against austerity measures.

The General Confederation of Portuguese Workers and the General Workers' Union said they hoped their fourth such strike in two years would ratchet up the pressure on the government. They want the government to ease the sharpest tax hikes in the country in living memory, as well as record high unemployment hovering around 18 percent.

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Portugual agrees austerity with troika

Trains stopped running, metro and ferry services also came to a standstill in Lisbon, forcing those who chose to go to work to take alternative routes. Airport management company ANA reported that scores of flights had been cancelled, most of them at Lisbon airport.

Satisfied creditors

The government's large-scale debt-cutting measures had come in return for a 78-billion-euro ($102-billion) bailout by international creditors two years ago.

Auditors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are back in Portugal to assess the nation's progress in meeting the troika's cost-cutting targets.

Unfazed by the general strike, they praised Lisbon's plans to trim public administration ahead of schedule, saying the banking sector's financial strength had improved and labor reforms such as the reduction of severance payments were enhancing competitiveness.

The EU is expected to debate the next disbursement for Portugal at a meeting of finance ministers in July.

hg/rg (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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