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Lisbon Tube walkout lays the track for more mass protests

Summer lull over as underground shuts down

The Lisbon Tube has closed for the fourth time this year as workers continued their protests against austerity measures linked to Portugal's €78 billion (£66bn) bailout.

Nurses and government workers are also planning strikes in the coming weeks as protests resume after a summer lull.

Workers at the Metropolitano de Lisboa are opposed to cuts in their overtime pay and subsidised meals which are due to be enacted in December.

They walked off the job eight times last year, joining other unions at public transport companies in a prolonged fight against the government's spending cuts.

Portugal's international lenders approved the country's performance during the bailout in their latest review last week, but rejected government requests to ease fiscal goals.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund claimed that there were early signs of recovery.

The government is set to push ahead with £4bn spending cuts next year, which are likely to be detailed in the draft budget to be presented later this month.

But even business groups have argued that these cuts could compromise a fledgling recovery.

Portugal's bailout is due to end in mid-2014 but economists expect that the country will continue to need some form of aid after that.

Finance Minister Maria Luis Albuquerque said last week that Portugal would not rule out bond issues this year and the goal was to resume regular issuance in 2014.

But the troika lenders claimed that the government could find it hard to attract investors if the government couldn't guarantee austerity measures next year.

Portugal's constitutional court has shot down several government austerity measures over the past 14 months, as the country's post-fascist charter allows for some rudimentary workers' rights.

The bailout terms have deepened two-and-a-half years of recession and sent unemployment to record levels.

The government has admitted that unemployment will keep rising this year and next from last year's 15.7 per cent, suggesting that it will peak at 17.7 per cent.


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