The General Strike on 10th December in Portugal virtually brought the whole country to a standstill with public transportation reaching stoppage rates nearing 100% in some sectors, meaning that those workers who did not belong to the 55 trade unions calling the strike could not arrive at work.
The strike was called in protest at draconian measures to alter the labour legislation, restricting the right to strike, facilitating dismissals, taking away the right of those unfairly dismissed to be reintegrated at work, increasing the length of the working week in some cases to 60 hours, far above the EU norm of 47, reducing overtime payment and classifying holidays as a “bonus” and not as a right, among other proposals.
In a year when the Portuguese citizen has seen prices soar due to the introduction of the Euro and a 19% across-the-board VAT rate, while salaries remain among the lowest in Europe, the feeling of discontentment is tangible. The Social Democrats (PSD) and their coalition partners, the conservative Partido Popular have reneged on election promises earlier in the year not to increase taxation and there are thousands more people on the unemployment list every week.
In less than a year, the Prime Minister, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, has managed to unite the country’s unions against him and behind the unions is a substantial part of the Portuguese population, who, according to polls, would vote the government out of office at the first opportunity.
The winter of discontent, predicted by Pravda.Ru three months ago, is set to stay in a Portugal governed by a political class which has lost touch with the bleak reality which are the daily lives of the vast majority of the country’s subjects.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru