Thousands took to the streets of Lisbon Saturday in a protest against the centre-right government’s austerity policies imposed as part of an EU-IMF bailout to rein in Portugal’s public debt.
Trade unions had expected a much larger turnout after a rally in the northern city of Oporto a week ago drew about 30,000 protesters, according to their own count.
“If the government continues on this path Portugal will go under,” said Joao Cruz, a 43-year-old rail worker, who was paid 2,000 euros less in a year since the adoption of budget cuts.
Another demonstrator, textile worker Susana Leal, argued the financial crisis “only benefits Germany while countries like ours are left stranded.”
Portugal’s main CGTP union is opposed to changes in labour laws adopted by parliament in May which make dismissing workers easier and scrapped a number of days off and public holidays.
The reforms, which are part of European Union and International Monetary Fund demands in exchange for a 78-billion euro ($97-billion) loan, were approved by the more moderate UGT union.
As part of the international rescue package worth, Portugal has undertaken a raft of austerity measures and expects economic activity to contract by 3.0 percent this year after dropping by 1.6 percent in 2011.