Strike announced over government’s €8.2 billion-saving road and rail merger

No sooner had the government announced the fusion of Estradas de Portugal (EP) with rail authority Refer than workers in both concerns have called a one-day strike for next Thursday (April 16).

The workers blame their action on the “uncertainty” the merger has created with regard to their jobs and conditions.

If the government is to be believed, only good can come from the move that promises to save as much as €8.2 billion in “the coming years”.

The savings – stemming not only from the merger but from reformulating six PPPs (public-private partnership projects) – were described at the Council of Ministers this week as having been forged by a “process without parallel in Europe”.

Secretary of State for Transports Sérgio Silva Monteiro told the meeting: “There have been other countries that tried to follow our example, like Ireland, Spain and the UK, but they couldn’t reach the kind of agreements that we have managed.”

According to Económico website, Monteiro explained that “22 people on the side of the State” have been involved in the negotiations which involved over 150 meetings.

Refer and EP are now to be merged into one body to be dubbed ‘IP’ for Infraestruturas de Portugal (Portugal Infrastructures).

Económico writes that the creation of IP will “generate savings of around a billion euros in the next five years”, while reformulated PPPs will release costs overall by as much as €7.2 billion.

The “good news” however has been tempered by the announcement of strike action.

FNSTFPS – the national federation of public workers – claims IP “will bring with it the consequence of ruinous policies imposed by successive PS and PSD/CDS governments” which have “dismantled the public rail sector”.

For now, for the man-in-the-street, the strike will simply mean mid-week rail chaos.

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