Disruption sweeps Portugal as strike begins

Disruption sweeps Portugal as strike begins

Road, rail and air traffic has been severely disrupted in Portugal as workers walk out on strike over a proposed austerity budget.

Members of the UGT and CGTP trade unions have joined the industrial action, which is expected to last for 24-hours.

Earlier this morning train services from the north to the south of the country were virtually paralysed, with just 20 per cent of departures leaving on schedule.

TAP Portugal, the national carrier, has also been forced to suspend the majority of short-haul flights as air traffic controllers joined the action.

However, the flag-carrier confirmed it was hoping to fly a number of long-haul services.

Irish carrier Ryanair has also cancelled 60 flights in and out of Portugal and again demanded the EU Commission remove the “right to strike” from essential services.

Ports – including the principal entry points at Lisbon and Setubal - are seeing disruption, while bus services across the country are also being hit.

Strikes are being well observed, according to union officials.

“The mobilisation of workers is enormous,” said one CGTP leader, Manuel Carvalho da Silva.

However, scenes in Portugal are unlikely to reflect those seen earlier in Paris, with demonstrators remaining on picket lines rather than taking to the streets in mass demonstrations.

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Austerity

In efforts to avoid following Ireland and Greece into financial meltdown, the Portuguese government is seeking to drastically cut public spending.

Measures include cutting wages for public sector workers, freezing pensions and increasing taxes.

The budget aims to reduce the national deficit from 7.3 per cent to 4.6 per cent of GDP in 2011.

With opposition Social Democrats MPs pledging to abstain from the vote, the Socialist government looks assured of getting its measures through Parliament.