Portugal’s public sector workers strike over pay amid inflation

The industrial action due to mounting cost of living comes a week before a final vote on the 2023 budget.

Thousands of Portugal’s doctors, nurses, teachers and civil servants have staged a walk-out to demand wage increases amid rampant inflation, challenging the majority Socialist government a week before a final vote on the 2023 budget.

Across the country many schools and courts were shut on Friday, hospital appointments and surgeries have been cancelled, and rubbish left uncollected.

Many European countries are facing labour strife due to high energy prices and the mounting cost of living.

The Common Front of the Public Administration Union represents nearly half of Portugal’s 730,000 civil servants and called the one-day strike.

“This year all workers have already lost one month’s salary due to inflation,” union coordinator Sebastiao Santana told reporters. “We are getting poorer.”

Consumer prices

Civil servants had a 0.9-percent pay rise in 2022, but consumer prices soared more than 10 percent year-on-year in October, the fastest pace in more than 30 years.

“We are not on strike because we like to lose a day’s wage, we are on strike because the government has not responded to the issues we presented, mainly the need to compensate for high cost of living due to inflation,” Santana said.

The union is demanding a 10-percent salary increase, and a minimum of 100 euros ($103.67) a month for 2023, while the government has proposed an average pay rise of 3.6 percent. The government is forecasting inflation of 4 percent next year.

In October, the government, key business associations and the country’s second-largest labour union GUT struck a deal to raise the wages of private sector workers by 5.1 percent in 2023.

Workers at Volkswagen’s Autoeuropa car plant entered their second day of a partial strike demanding an extraordinary pay rise. The strike at one of Portugal’s top exporters affects the first two hours of each of its four shifts.

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