Portugal's unions set general strike for November 24

19th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Portugal's two main unions have set November 24 for the general strike they have called against the government's austerity programme, a union leader told AFP Wednesday.

The unions agreed on the strike at a meeting Monday between their leaders, Manuel Carvalho da Silva of the CGTP, and Joao Proenca of the UGT.

That same day, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho and his centre-right govrnment submitted a tough 2012 draft budget to parliament.

In it, they set out the austerity measures they say the country's international creditors require in return for their bail-out loan.

Proposed cuts include the temporary suspension of 13th and 14th month salary payments for civil servants and pensioners who earn more than 1,000 euros a month.

Private sector employees will be requested to work half an hour more per day, VAT will rise, while the health and education budgets will be slashed.

The government has warned that the austerity measures contained in the draft budget will cause the economy to contract by 2.8 percent in 2012, more than the 2.3 percent previously forecast.

Unemployment, which is expected to reach 12.5 percent by the end of the year, would hit 13.4 percent in 2012, it added.

Portugal in May received a 78-billion-euro bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, conditioned on a tough austerity programme to be executed over three years.

The country needs to reduce its public deficit from 9.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 5.9 percent by the end of this year.

November 24 is the anniversary of the last general strike, held in 2010. It also falls a few days before parliament is due to vote on the budget.

The unions also plan to tap into growing discontent over the country's economic plight with a week of protests from Thursday.

The transport and communications unions have already called for a rally Thursday in front of the economy ministry.

Tens of thousands of people turned out for last Saturday's rallies, in Lisbon and in cities across the country, to protest against the austerity programmes of the EU and IMF.

On October 1, the CGTP organised rallies in Lisbon and Porto which according to their estimates, drew 150,000.

© 2011 AFP

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