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Europe fightback: Portugal

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In Portugal, “socialist” prime minister José Sócrates is instituting savage cuts – the biggest in Europe after Greece. He wants to cut state spending to from 8.3 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent by 2013. Unemployment already stands at 10.1 per cent and would be driven way above this by such measures.

The Portuguese workers have forced their union leaders to oppose the government’s plans. The 300,000 strong Common Front public sector union has called a one-day strike on 4 March against the government’s pay freeze. The UGT, Portugal’s second-largest union and traditionally closer to the Socialists, has come out in support of the strike.

Manuel Carvalho da Silva, leader of the CGTP union federation, told Reuters: “I say a scenario like the strike in Greece is necessary.” That would be a great step forward, but da Silva made no explicit call for a general strike and failed to mention a date.

A general strike of workers from both public and private sectors would be the first in Portugal in over a decade.