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Dockers protest in Portugal at port reform

Hundreds of dockers demonstrated to the sound of firecrackers in front of parliament in Lisbon Thursday to protest a port reform that they say threatens their jobs.

Some 300 dockers from Portugal as well as France, Belgium, Denmark and Spain demonstrated against a bill due to be voted on in parliament, which aims to liberalise the ports sector and make it more competitive by reducing tariffs.

Jose Gaspar of the Lisbon dockers’ union said the reform would lead to dockers being laid off and replaced by workers employed under worse conditions.

“Against unemployment and precarity,” read a banner at the head of the protest.

Other dock workers in France and elsewhere planned a two-hour work stoppage on Thursday in support of the Portuguese dockers.

Months of action by dockers from Lisbon and several other Portuguese ports have disrupted exports at a bad time for Portugal, which is in recession.

Lawmakers in the bailed-out country’s centre-right dominated parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to a 2013 budget imposing an unprecedented austerity squeeze to save 5.3 billion euros ($6.9 billion).

About 80 prominent figures including former president Mario Soares on Thursday released an open letter to Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho calling on him to resign or change his austere economic policies.