Civil servants protest against government reforms

PORTUGAL’S POLICE forces have been taking to the streets of Lisbon, participating in a series of protests with other civil sectors, to denounce the Socialist government’s planned reforms and harsh policies that have been instigated to fight the state deficit.

School teachers in the Algarve, the Azores and in Madeira have also taken part in phased, regional actions, in protest of cost cutting government policies.

In Lisbon, unions said about 90 per cent of the city’s bus and tram workers stayed away from their jobs on Wednesday morning of last week, in order to apply pressure for the implementation of contracted employee benefits.

The increasing wave of public sector demonstrations and strikes follows the recent announcement by Prime Minister José Sócrates that his cabinet would fight its inherited budget deficit of nearly seven per cent through a tough austerity programme, which includes tax hikes, upping the age of retirement and cutting benefits.

On one day alone last week, between 5,000 and 10,000 officers from the various police services, many uniformed, marched through Lisbon to protest against plans to cutback their health care schemes.