Portugal: Strike wave continues against government cuts

Commentators warn of “another May ‘68’

Mass protests and strikes are continuing to develop against the anti-worker policies of the Partido Socialista (PS – ‘Socialist Party’) government of José Socrates. Public sector workers are in the forefront of a struggle against the government’s proposal. Last week, post office workers held a two day national strike. Next Friday, a national demonstration of young workers will be called and it is expected that thousands of younger workers will join a national demonstration in Lisbon to protest against falling living standards and to demand better wages.

The government is proposing changes to the ‘Codigo do Trabalho’, the labour code, making it easier for bosses to fire people. This prospect, together with rising prices of food, heating and other basic commodities, have radicalised the mood amongst workers and youth. Metal workers, who are in a period of collective bargaining of their working conditions, went on strike. On 16 -17 April, national demonstrations, organised by the trade unions, will take place in Porto and Lisbon.

Commentators in the mass media warn the government about the developing mood and the radicalisation of workers. They warn that the country feels like it is on the verge of ‘another May 68’, referring to the revolutionary events in France, 40 years ago.

Alternativa Socialista (CWI in Portugal) calls for the trade unions to take initiatives to unite the different struggles and to call for a 24 hours general strike against the José Socrates government. Such a general strike should be prepared for by workers and youth in the workplaces. ‘Committees of struggle’ should be elected in every workplace, to bring together the various trade unions, and to involve the unorganised in the struggle; to work out a strategy and a political alternative to the neo-liberal policies of the Partido Socialista government.

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March 2008