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Strike set to slow Portugal to a crawl on Thursday

Strikes are expected to slow traffic to a crawl in Lisbon on Thursday when thousands take to the streets to vent anger at austerity measures and rising unemployment as Portugal’s economy skids.

The strike is expected to hit public transport service hard, with the Lisbon metro to shut on Wednesday evening and reopen only on Friday, with only minimal service on buses and trains.

Demonstrations are expected in the capital and other main cities over labour reforms.

The strike comes amid rising concern among analysts and investors that eurozone member Portugal will need a second bailout — an eventuality that the government has strongly denied.

Portuguese officials have instead recently said the country is moving faster than projected under last year’s 78 billion euro ($103 billion) EU-International Monetary Fund rescue.

However the crisis has hit home hard, with domestic demand plunging 6.2 percent last year and the economy contracting 1.6 percent as the government cut benefits. Unemployment rose to 14 percent with more than a third of youths now out of jobs.

The crisis is expected to worsen this year with the economy to contract by another 3 percent, according to government forecasts.

The strike will be something of a test for the main CGTP labour union, which called the labour action alone as the other major union, the UGT, reached agreement with the government on reforms of employment laws.

About 300,000 people answered the union’s call for a February demonstration in Lisbon, according to the CGTP’s estimates.

More than three million people participated in the previous general strike in November, according to the CGTP.