Portugal: Unions’ day of action

On the same day as the general strike that rocked Spain, Portuguese workers took to the streets all over the country saying, "No to attacks on our class".

Postal workers, transport workers, public sector workers, teachers, nurses, metal workers, textile and garment workers, pensioners, disabled people – hundreds of thousands went to the demos, rallies and others activities on the ‘National Action Day’, called by the CGTP trade union federation.

This was a huge response to the vicious attacks that the right wing government started after the collapse of the social democrat government of Antonio Guterres.

The new government have increased the IVA (VAT) to 19%, they cut housing subsidies to young people, they are set to give insurance companies the cream of welfare contributions, they are set to approve a new discriminatory anti-immigration law, they want to change the labour and union laws to the detriment of working class people, they want to fire around 50, 000 public servants, they want to privatise public services and utilities and so on.

The National Action Day was an impressive response by the working class to these attacks. It was far beyond the expectations of the trade union leaderships. They argued that mobilising workers is very difficult to organise. For the first time in years, the CGTP and UGT union federations are talking about a joint action against the privatisation of welfare services.

But it is obvious that we need more. Alternativa Socialista (CWI section in Portugal), in a statement and leaflet sent to the trade unions and Left parties in Lisbon, called on the unions and the rank and file of workers’ organisations to set up a ‘United Commission’ to build for a general strike to stop the bosses and the government’s offensive.

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June 2002