Court strike action had “devastating” effect

A TWO-DAY strike by court officials brought delays to thousands of court cases last week.

The Union of Portuguese Judges estimated that around 5,000 cases were cancelled completely in an action affecting a total of 50,000 people. Union president, Baptista Coelho said the effect of the strike, in which 90 per cent of staff – judges, magistrates and Public Ministry employees – adhered to the action, was “devastating”.

During the strike the scene at the country’s most famous criminal court, Lisbon’s Boa Hora Courthouse, was chaotic. The doors opened promptly at 9am and defendants, witnesses, family members and friends filed in, carrying summonses and identity cards. But most were turned back within an hour because the strike left insufficient staff to manage the courts.

Justice Minister, Alberto Costa said the strike was a “concerted bid to inflict the maximum possible disrupCourt strike action had “devastating” effecttion on the system” and condemned it strongly. “There are cases connected to prisoners, children and minors who are at risk that deserve to be addressed immediately,” he said. Costa said the strikers would not intimidate the administration. “If anyone thinks that this will make the government retreat then they are simply mistaken, because our will springs from the will of the voters,” he said. The fulfilment of the government’s programme was “a duty”, he added.