Portuguese trade union demonstrates against budget cuts
The smaller of Portugal's two umbrella associations for trade unions held a demonstration in Lisbon Friday against controversial austerity measures proposed for 2013, dpa reported.
Joao Proenca, general secretary of Portugal's General Worker's Unoin (UGT), hand delivered a written appeal against the austerity plan to Sao Bento Palace, seat of the parliament, in Lisbon.
Several hundred people accompanied Proenca on a peaceful protest march to the palace, news reports said.
UGT said the document spelled out "corrections" to the budget proposal that the union is demanding. It asserted that the budget proposal's cuts threaten to increase poverty and unemployment and cause a loss of security for everyone in the country.
The government plans to increase income taxes dramatically in 2013 and introduce a general surcharge of 4 per cent of net income. Taxes on tobacco, real estate, automobiles for personal use and petrol are also slated to go up. At the same time the government plans to cut benefits for retired, unemployed and disabled people. In addition, funding to the country's health care sector will drop 17 per cent less under the plan.
The budget outline is due to have its first reading in parliament on Wednesday. Various organizations, including the country's largest umbrella organization for trade union's, the General Confederation of the Portuguese Worker (CGTP), have announced protests for that day. The CGTP also has called for a general strike on November 14. The UGT has said it will not participate in that action.
Portugal has been granted a 78-billion-dollar aid package from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In exchange the poorest country in western Europe must reduce its budget deficit to 3 per cent of gross domestic product by 2014. The austerity measures have led to a deep recession and record unemployment of 15.9 per cent.