Thousands of people took to the streets this week to protest government austerity measures in Lisbon, Portugal. The austerity protesters resorted to taking buses to cross landmark April 25th Bridge, after the government denied them permission to march across the bridge. The demonstration was called by Portugal’s main union CGTP, General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, against the government’s austerity measures. The protesters want Portugal’s Constitutional Court to reject the 2014 budget bill.
Trade unions are fighting pay and pension cuts, and against the scrapping of workers’ rights. The drastic and controversial measures are being required by creditors in return for Portugal’s 78-billion-euro ($100 billion) bailout in 2011. Portugal is the third member of the 17-nation eurozone, after Greece and Ireland, to take a bailout due to crippling debts. No surprise that the people of Portugal are now being held responsible for a problem that they did nothing to perpetuate or cause. And it’s also no surprise that the people who caused the financial problem profited from the bailout, and that afterwards the people are yet again being punished for something they had nothing to do with.
Lisbon government officials recently unveiled the new austerity budget for 2014 to passionate public outcry. The plan is a crucial step in efforts to avert the need for a second bailout when Portugal’s €78bn rescue program ends in June. The new measures include cuts from 2.5 percent up to 12 percent on monthly salaries in public sector pay, in a proposed effort to boost investor confidence. The pension cuts are expected to bring savings of several hundred millions.
Another rally with thousands of participants also took place in Porto, the country’s second largest city. And a similar protest occurred this past April, where several buses crossed the same bridge before the workers staged a demonstration in the city. And unions are planning further strikes to take place in November 2013. It is estimated that roughly 60,000 people took part in this weeks austerity protests, police report conflicting numbers, with an estimate of 25,000.
Earlier this year, multiple groups consisting of hundreds of thousands of individuals, were again exercising their freedom of expression by publicly demonstrating their discontent with the government’s austerity measures. Portugal currently has an alarming unemployment rate of 17.7%, and roughly 886,000 people in the country are unemployed. The government has previously rejected portions of the austerity measure due to Constitutionality, and some believe that a similar finding will occur again.
Tension has been rising in Portugal, as with many other areas that we are seeing (Egypt, United States, Syria etc), between government and those who they supposedly represent. Portugal joins a list of other countries who have seen a rise in protests due to seemingly unfair and cruel austerity measures, such as Greece and Spain. Last year, over 100,000 individuals protested austerity measures in Portugal, from Palace Square. It is interesting to note that as Portugal debates about cutting income and pensions, Switzerland is deciding to give every citizen a basic income just for being alive.