Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Unions: Portugal Strike Halts Factories, Transport

Tens of thousands of employees walked off the job in Portugal Wednesday, idling ports, trains and stores in the biggest strike in three years, part of a union-led protest against government plans to cut public-worker salaries and raise taxes.

The strike comes as Prime Minister Jose Socrates and his socialist government struggles to restore confidence in its economy and avoid becoming a victim of the government-debt crisis that has brought Greece and now Ireland to the brink of economic collapse. Portuguese bonds have taken a beating in current days as investors remain skeptical about the government's ability to slash the budget deficit.

"The country is imposing very harsh measures and the ones who will suffer are the employees, who had nothing to do with making the crisis happen in the first place," said Rita Silva, an official of the opposition Left Bloc, the fourth-biggest party in parliament.

Accompanied by a dozen youngsters banging on drums in central Lisbon, Ms. Silva added that "our salaries and benefits will be cut. Meanwhile banks and bankers maintain to lead their normal lives."

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