Tens of thousands of teachers in Portugal took to the streets in Lisbon last Saturday in protest against education cuts which are part of the government’s €4.3 billionreduction in the 2013 State Budget.
Mário Nogueira, general secretary of the teachers’ union Fenprof, called for “a week of mourning” in schools between February 18 and 22 in his closing speech at the union’s rally attended by more than 40,000 teachers.
“We will mourn in the schools at what the government is doing to our country,” he said.
“The teachers’ protest is an example of what should follow. The Portuguese will fight hard this year and it is a fight that is not meant to burn down the country but to defeat the government and its policies,” he added.
Carvalho da Silva, the former leader of Portugal’s largest workers’ union CGTP, and Arménio Carlos, the current general secretary of CGTP, were also at the rally.
During his speech, which lasted about 40 minutes, Mário Nogueira also said that teachers will join a CGTP protest set for February 16 in all district capitals and on the islands of Madeira and the Azores.
Fenprof also announced that it will promote a national petition in defence of the social functions of the state and also a nationwide campaign to defend public schools across the country.
Mário Nogueira said that teachers are well qualified and trained and should not be left aside.
The protest is also supported by the general secretary of the Teachers’ Union of Buenos Aires, the Argentinian Roberto Baradel, who attended the rally and made a short speech.
He explained that he understands and supports Fenprof’s struggle since Argentina has already gone through an intervention by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Asked about the experience of the intervention of the IMF in Argentina, Roberto Baradel said it was “very bad” and that at that time unemployment rates reached around 30%.
“When the IMF’s intervention was gone everything became better. There was more work, better education and better health,” he said.
“The IMF does not benefit people and workers. It benefits the capitalists and banks,” he said, advocating a policy of expansion, rather than austerity.