Thousands of Portuguese civil servants have gone on strike to protest against government plans for public service reforms. Services affected by the 24-hour stoppage included hospitals, job centres, museums and schools which operated a reduced service or closed altogether.
It was the latest industrial action against a proposed revamp of the public workforce. Prime Minister Jose Socrates wants to close scores of government agencies and raise the retirement age from 60 to 65.
He is under pressure to reduce public spending. The budget deficit was six percent of gross domestic product last year – twice the eurozone’s limit. The government has vowed to bring it down to 4.6 percent in 2006. The strike came as the national statistics body reported a drop in the number of unemployed to below eight percent.