By Catarina Demony and Victoria Waldersee
LISBON (Reuters) – Thousands of police officers marched to Portugal’s parliament on Thursday to demand better pay and conditions, in the biggest police protest since the Socialists came to power in 2015.
Organisers expected some 10,000 protesters from various police agencies. Official figures are not yet available.
But the loudest chants were from Movimento Zero, an anonymous, non-hierarchical movement formed just six months ago on social media but quickly gaining traction among the country’s disgruntled police.
The movement is strongly supported by Portugal’s far-right party Chega.
“It’s a lack of dignity, of respect. This government finds money for the banks, why not for the police?” said one member of Zero, who asked to remain unnamed. “We don’t even have handcuffs.”
Holding banners saying, “We protect the people, but who protects us?”, protesters demanded higher salaries, new equipment, improved benefits and health and safety reviews.
“It’s a huge injustice that police take home a salary so close to the minimum wage,” said Paulo Macedo, vice-president of a police union.
The entry level salary for a police officer in Portugal’s national guard is 789 euros a month, compared to 1,309 euros for an equivalent position in Poland and 1,309 euros in France.
In a statement earlier this week, police associations said the Socialist government failed to keep promises made in its last term, “jeopardising not only the stability of the institutions but public safety in Portugal”. The Socialists were re-elected in a general election on Oct. 6 but failed to win a full majority.
A spokeswoman from the Socialist Party said on Thursday that it supported the police’s right to protest and was paying “close attention” to their demands.
Unions and government will enter talks in the first half of 2020 to review investment into the force.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Victoria Waldersee)