Portugal: Lisbon Shut Down as Transport Workers Strike Against Austerity

Staff at the state-owned rail company Comboios de Portugal and the underground walked off the job during the morning rush hour. Bus and ferry workers also stopped work. Staff voted for strike action after the neoliberal Social Democratic government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho vowed in May to slash pay and boost regressive taxes in return for a (EURO)78 billion (£67bn) bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Coelho's administration has vowed to force private-sector employees to work 30 minutes more a day for no extra pay, while slashing health and education budgets and bumping up VAT. It has also promised to sell off the postal service, national airline TAP, airport managing firm ANA and the freight branch of the railways next year - on top of selling off stakes in utility firms this year.

Civil servants and military personnel are set to rally in Lisbon on Saturday and Portugal's two main trade union confederations have called a general strike for November 24. Portugal slipped into a double-dip recession this year. The economy is forecast to keep contracting in 2012 when the official unemployment rate is predicted to reach a record 13.4 per cent.

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