Portugal has been hit by its first general strike in twelve months.
Many Portuguese workers oppose austerity measures imposed by the country’s new centre-right government under the terms of an international bailout.
Transport and other public services had ground to a halt by Thursday morning with large protests expected later in the afternoon.
Union leaders said this will be the biggest strike Portugal has ever seen.
“There are indications of good participation across the country. In the private sector, we also see signs of a good turnout. A turnout that is necessary,” said Manuel Carvalho da Silva, the secretary general of the CGTP union, the country’s largest.
It is exactly one year since a similar demonstration was held against the previous government’s planned spending cuts.
Socialist Jose Socrates resigned as prime minister in March after parliament rejected an austerity budget designed to avoid seeking foreign aid.
His resignation triggered elections, won by the centre-right Social Democrats.
“The workers have the right to strike but it also causes problems for them. A lot of bosses take advantage of that. I notice there are not many people on public transport this morning.”
All international flights to and from Lisbon and Porto have been cancelled for the duration of the 24-hour walkout
Portugal asked for a 78-billion-euro rescue loan from the EU and the IMF in April. It must slash spending and shake up its labour laws as part of the deal.
One goal is to cut its budget deficit from 5.9 percent f gross domestic product this year, from nearly 10 percent in 2010.