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Portugal: austerity measure spark strike

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Portugal: austerity measure spark strike
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A strike by civil servants has hit schools, courts, hospitals and social security offices across Portugal.

The stoppage is in protest at a freeze on public sector wages this year.

The Socialist government said spending cuts were needed in response to the deep economic downturn that has taken unemployment in Portugal to its highest in a quarter of a century.

Union leader Manuel Carvalho da Silva of the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers said: “We need jobs and workers being better paid in order to overcome this crisis”

The unions are threatening more strikes if the wage freeze continues.

They said 70 to 90 percent of public service workers were on strike but the government insisted participation was much lower.

The State Secretary for Public Administration, Castillo Dos Santos, told reporters: “A majority of public employees in this country has accepted a message of realism and responsibility, which is the message we need, and the majority did not participate in the strike”

The Lisbon government’s efforts to cut the deficit are being closely watched by investors who are concerned that Portugal is the next weak link in the euro zone after Greece, even though its debts and deficit are much lower than Greece’s.