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03/10/2012 - Greek and Portuguese workers strike

Portuguese commuters are finding it hard to get to work as Portuguese train engineers begin five days of stoppages to contest austerity measures imposed by the country's government.

The engineers are refusing to work during the first two hours of each shift. The National Engineers' Union is demanding pay increases for its members, but the government says lossmaking state enterprises such as the rail company must cut back.
 
Portugal took on a €78 billion (£62bn) Euro bailout last year and the lenders, known as the troika (the EU, European Central Bank and IMF), is driving the attack on workers' livelihoods not just in Portugal but throughout Europe.
 
In response to these demands, the government will cutting overall spending by €40bn (£32bn) next year, freeze public-sector salaries and hack back viciously on jobs, while unemployment runs at over 15 per cent.
 
National rail company Comboios de Portugal said the strike forced the cancellation of almost 70 percent of suburban services in the capital on Monday (01/10/2012) morning with intercity and international services also severely disrupted.
 
On Friday, a public holiday, no trains are expected to run at all.
 
Meanwhile in Greece, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras submitted his 2013 draft budget to the Greek parliament after meeting with the troika inspectors, showing that the country is set for a sixth year of recession.
 
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos also met with officials from the troika on Monday (01/10/2012) to try and hammer out the details of a €130 billion bailout deal. He must also convince the leaders of Greece's three main political parties to back a package of fiscal and economic reforms that are a condition of the bailout.
 
Greece needs the money to avoid defaulting on a €14.5 billion bond redemption in March. The concern is that a so-called disorderly default could force Greece out of the euro monetary union and shock the global financial system.
 
 The budget will make yet more cuts to public-sector pay, pensions and welfare benefits as part of an €11.5 billion (£9.1bn) austerity package of savings spread out over the next two years. Other cutbacks will be made in healthcare, education and defence.
 
 In respose Greece trade union members are expected to go on a series of daylong strikes to protest new austerity measures sought by their government and the troika.

 "We don't have another option. We can't just sit around doing nothing," said private-sector union GSEE general secretary Nikos Kioutsoukis.
 
 Pat Harrington of  Solidarity commented: "Workers in Portugal and Greece are fighting the austerity measures imposed by the bankers and corrupt politicians. Workers here in the UK need to take similar action. We need to be far more militiant in refusing to pay for the mistakes of the corrupt political class that is misruling us."

Ian Bell