Hospitals “paralysed”, schools closed as Portugal gripped by public sector walk-out

It began at midnight last (Thursday) night and is the second national strike to hit the Socialist government since it seized power after 2015’s ‘inconclusive elections’.

Considering all the ‘good financial news’ touted recently in the press, Friday May 26 gives a very different message.

Strike action had almost instant impact, reports TVI24, “particularly in the health sector.

“Adhesion in various hospitals was close to 100%”, while hundreds if not thousands of schools failed to open this morning.

An early-bird overview in Lisbon showed that support for the bid to restore the 35-hour working week for all public sector staff (this means nurses and doctors who are still being forced to work longer hours) and lift the ongoing freeze on pay rises was total in three major hospitals (São José, Alfredo da Costa maternity and Beatriz Ângelo; 98% in São Francisco Xavier and 85% in Santa Maria – where all surgeries have been cancelled.

TVI adds that adhesion in the Capuchos hospital is 70%.

CGTP workers union president Arménio Carlos told reporters that it is time now for the government to take note and start acting to improve their workers’ conditions.

Said strike coordinator Ana Viola of the Federation of Public Sector worker syndicates: “For the country to improve there is no reason for public sector workers to continue with such low wages and increasing difficulties”.

As secretary general of the organisation José Abraão explained, it has been nine years since public sector workers have received any kind of pay rise. During the last government, those fortunate enough to retain their jobs suffered pay cuts, which have since been ‘restored’ by the Socialists.

With public opinion in general supporting the strike, the government for now has said very little.

TVI suggests sources claim the strike will have little effect on the good ‘institutional news’ of the week, which included Finance Minister Mário Centeno predicting growth for the country during the second half of 2017 exceeding 3%.

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