Portugal's biggest unions staged their first joint strike in over 20 years on Wednesday, hoping to weaken government resolve in implementing austerity measures designed to shield the country from euro zone contagion.
Now that Ireland has announced its intention to seek assistance from the EU and IMF, investors are turning their attention to other financially weak euro nations like Portugal, which faces acute pressure to restore confidence in its economy, Reuters says.
The strike, expected to be the biggest in recent Portuguese history, comes two days before a final vote in parliament on a 2011 austerity budget, which will cut public sector pay by an average of 5 per cent, freeze state pensions, increase taxes and reduce welfare benefits.
Minor incidents between police and pickets were reported in Lisbon. But unions, whose diminishing role in Portuguese politics has been revived by the economic crisis, pledged to comply with legal requirements to provide minimum services, Financial Times reports.