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Strikes cripple main Portuguese ports

Striking dockworkers crippled Portugal’s main harbours Tuesday to protest government plans to alter working conditions as it tries to make the recession-struck country more competitive.

The strike, which started early Tuesday morning, most notably impacted the ports of Lisbon, Aveiro, Figueira da Foz, Setubal and Sines.

In Lisbon, five cargo ships were rerouted to other destinations, and four were forced to wait in place, said Portugal’s harbour authority.

Dockers were protesting government plans to introduce temporary contracts that would favour intermittent workers. The measures are aimed at making Portugal’s docks more competitive, particularly against Spain.

According to the Confederation of Maritime and Port Unions, which represents about 700 people, the ports were forced into a total stand-still.

“This support shows the total rejection of workers against the government’s proposals,” the group’s vice president Vitor Dias told news agency Lusa.

“The government wants to get rid of half of all port workers and replace them with people without any qualifications,” he claimed.

Unemployment in Portugal, which is carrying out austerity policies under a 78-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout, rose to a record 15 percent in the second quarter, the national statistics institute said Tuesday.