Portuguese trade unions on Thursday embarked on a
24-hour general strike against the government's austerity policies
under an international bailout programme, which they blame for
recession and unemployment, dpa reported.
Public transport was heavily affected by the strike, with buses
and trains barely operating and traffic jams reported in Lisbon and
Porto. Several flights between Portugal and neighbouring Spain were
Armenio Carlos, the leader of the main trade union confederation
CGTP, said Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's austerity policies
had destroyed 300,000 jobs in two years.
The strike called by the CGTP and the UGT union was the fourth
general strike faced by Passos Coelho since he became prime minister
The government has drastically cut social spending, reformed the
labour market and launched a privatization programme in agreement
with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which
granted Lisbon a bailout worth 78 billion euros (101 billion dollars)
The government is trying to trim the budget deficit to 5.5 per
cent of gross domestic product from 6.4 per cent in 2012.
The economy is expected to shrink by more than 2 per cent this
year, while unemployment has climbed to 18 per cent.
The bailout programme has come under growing criticism even from
members of Passos Coelho's own party, who have called for policies to
foster growth and employment.
Portugal has faced constant strikes, especially in the transport
sector. The protests have rarely turned violent.