Home | Thursday 25th November 2010 | Issue 749
MONEY FOR OLD EUROPE
The winter of discontent is hardly over for Europe as another Euro zone member feels the cuts. On Wednesday (24th) Portugal was practically on its knees as flights were cancelled, trains stalled, health and bank services halted as an expression of rage over recent government cuts and unemployment rises.
As the general strike started taking hold, Portugal’s largest exporter, Volkswagen, ceased operating as its production line ground to a stop. A picket line was held outside the motor giant’s entrance.
A number of other car and shipbuilding factories halted production also. National airline TAP cancelled a a large percentage of its flights for the day, whilst ports were sealed, rubbish collection frozen and postal services went out the window (not literally, fortunately for passers-by).
Unions accused the police of violently dispersing post office pickets which the cops naturally denied.
Western Europe’s poorest country has hit its highest unemployment point since the 1980s, over 10% and likely to rise significantly higher as the cuts bite.
Unlike other suffering Euro siblings such as Spain and Ireland that saw phases of boom and bust, Portugal has not really ever had the euphoria of boom to cheer it up and now wonder why they should be paying for everyone else’s bust.
The budget its government is trying to impose hacks public sector wages by 5%, freezes pensions and raises VAT from 21% to 23%. Once again the brunt of these policies is felt most by the people that can handle it the least. “It’s the workers who are paying for the crisis, not the bankers nor the shareholders of big companies”, said a 65-year-old pensioner on the scene.