A 24-hour walkout in Portugal has brought the capital Lisbon to a virtual standstill. The action, which began at midnight, is in protest at austerity measures and labour reforms introduced by the government as a condition for a 78-billion-euro bailout.
The country is facing its worst recession since the 1970s but strikers say the reforms go too far. Underground worker Hilda Bernadette said the measures demanded by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank include cutting Christmas and holiday bonuses and amount to losing two months salary a year.
Portugal's second biggest union, the UGT, has agreed to the reforms and hasn't joined the action, so in some ways today is a test as to whether the main union, the CGTP, has sway beyond its membership. Its leader, Armenio Carlos, says the fight is on two fronts: firstly to protect the rights that already exist and also to ensure they remain for future generations.
One of the biggest effects of the action may be stopping those who have jobs from getting to work. But unemployment in Portugal is now at 14 percent with the economy expected to shrink by another 3.3 per cent this year.