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Portugal to requisition TAP workers to break strike

Portugal’s government on Thursday invoked a measure allowing it to force employees of TAP airline to work during a planned four-day strike set for the holiday period over the company’s privatisation.

The so-called requisition of personnel will authorise 70 percent of the airline’s employees to be called in to work during the December 27-30 strike. All flights are expected to be maintained.

“It is an exceptional situation that calls for an exceptional measure,” Economy Minister Antonio Pires de Lima said.

“The public interest must prevail over private interest,” he said, adding that hundreds of millions of euros in spending in the key tourism sector could be at risk.

He said that the country has “a huge diaspora and our emigrants often have no other alternative to return to Portugal than by using the services of TAP.”

The company’s 12 unions have called for the strike in opposition to Portugal’s renewed attempt at privatising TAP.

Portugal’s government decided last month to make another attempt at privatisation, putting 66 percent of the airline up for sale after it flew back into profit and generated renewed investor interest.

Some 20,000 passengers have already cancelled or modified their tickets out of a total of 130,000 bookings made for the four days of the strike.

The government’s last such requisition involving TAP was in 1997 during a pilots’ strike.