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Portuguese rail strike paralyses network

A strike by train conductors and controllers on Thursday paralysed rail traffic in Portugal on a bank holiday, the latest industrial action against austerity measures in the bailed-out country.

The strike against a slash in wages was expected to lead to the cancellation of around 800 trains throughout the country, said Ana Portela, a spokeswoman for the national railway operator (CP).

Train conductors were in particular protesting against a lowering of salaries paid for those who work on bank holidays.

“It is pure wage confiscation! We cannot accept it,” fumed Antonio Medeiros, the president of the conductors union, SMAQ.

The controllers’ union SFRCI meanwhile denounced the cuts as “penalising measures that are leading to despair among workers and their families”.

The unions warned that they would carry out similar strikes during all remaining public holidays for the month, meaning on June 10, June 13 and June 24.

It marked the latest strike against austerity measures in Portugal, which is locked into a three-year programme of debt-cutting measures and economic reforms in return for a 78-billion-euro ($103 billion) rescue package from the EU and International Monetary Fund agreed in May 2011.

Portugal was the third EU country after Greece and Ireland to receive such a bailout.

Previous strikes have included air traffic controllers and public services like garbage collection, ports, schools and transport.