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Strikes hit Portugal as parliament votes on austerity plan

Published on 23/03/2011

Transport strikes crippled debt-ridden Portugal on Wednesday as parliament appeared set to reject Prime Minister Jose Socrates' austerity plan.

Rail traffic ground to a halt amid a strike by train drivers and the state railway company CP said only international services were running.

Lisbon’s commuter ferries across the Tagus river were also suspended.

Unions said staff on the Lisbon metro system would strike on Thursday as part of a series of strikes in the transport sector to protest a cut in workers’ salaries imposed by the cash-strapped government.

Rail workers are due to strike again on Friday while Lisbon’s bus conductors will refuse to work overtime until April 8.

The government has imposed an average 5 percent cut in public workers’ salaries since January and called on state companies to cut expenses by 15 percent as part of an austerity programme as Portugal struggles to avoid an international financial bailout.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates said he would resign if parliament votes against his latest austerity plan on Wednesday, the fourth put forward by his government in the past year.