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Portugal Labor Unions Plan Strikes Against Austerity Measures

Portugal’s two biggest labor unions, CGTP and UGT, said they planned to call for a series of strikes to protest austerity measures announced by the government last week.

Joao Proenca, the head of the UGT union, said the protests may culminate in a nationwide strike with the CGTP. Both unions oppose a government plan to increase the social-security rate paid by workers and withhold some salary payments from state employees next year.

“UGT’s actions will highlight the difficult situation that Portuguese workers are going through,” Proenca said in comments broadcast by SIC Noticias television station.

Prime-Minister Pedro Passos Coelho announced the new measures on Sept. 7 in a bid to narrow the budget deficit and comply with the terms of the country’s 78 billion-euro ($100 billion) aid plan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. UGT and CGTP made their comments after Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar held a news conference earlier today on the results of the fifth review of Portugal’s bailout program.

Proenca, whose UGT union on Jan. 18 signed a deal with the government to revamp the labor market, including measures that make it easier to hire and dismiss workers, said he had no plans for now to end that agreement.

UGT and CGTP organized the country’s first general strike in 22 years last year to protest austerity measures by the previous government. As the country’s borrowing costs surged, Portugal in April 2011 followed Greece and Ireland in requesting a bailout.

The government is imposing “sacrifices upon sacrifices to those that have always fulfilled their responsibilities,” Armenio Costa, the CGTP’s secretary-general, said in separate comments broadcast by SIC Noticias. “This is a policy of disaster that has to end very quickly.”

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