Friday, July 06, 2012

The Economic Crisis In Portugal Breeding Political and Social Upheaval


6 July 2012
Faro, Portugal
By Der Kosmonaut 
The Portuguese Republic is coming at the crossroads. On August 1 the new
labour laws will take effect. Workers can be forced to work two extra hours per
day without overtime. One day of overtime will be reduced from the current
+50% of hourly wage down to 37%. For the second day of overtime, the rate will
be reduced from +100% down to 75%. In addition, 4 public holidays will be
eliminated. For the remaining public holidays if a company closes the
Friday before or the Monday after a holiday, workers will not be paid for
the days off. Christmas and yearly bonuses are to be eliminated outright.
TAP, the national air carrier, is to be privatised in the autumn. Why is
Portugal doing this? These were the conditions imposed by the EC, European
Central Bank and the IMF in exchange for the 78 Billion Euro bailout the
country received. The poison on the icing on the cake are the additional
taxes and VAT on goods and services including food.
The government is playing with fire. The English language newspaper, 
The Portugal News, quoted someone saying that Portugal is going through the biggest crisis since the
1974 Revolution. Already the people are angry. I have observed a woman
collecting coins from parking meters escorted by a police officer.
Apparently they have been attacked and robbed. I also witnessed a parking warden
who writes parking tickets also escorted by another police officer. Tax
collectors and those working for the tax agency have also been attacked.
One tax collector was physically assaulted. Another tax collector had
their car set on fire.  The Faro office of the central bank, Banco de Portugal
is surrounded by barricades and 24 hour police protection. The State obviously fears that the masses will attack, or attempt to rob the
bank or otherwise burn it down I tell you the Portuguese don't play. 
The government is in a deadly bind. On one hand it must implement these
"reforms" in order to receive revenue and avoid state bankruptcy. On the
other hand, it cannot impose totalitarian repressive laws without
provoking an uprising. Usually, governments exclude police from pay cuts
and labour reforms but the government can't do that in Portugal as it would
be too obvious and the masses would react. Even the police must take pay
cuts and be subjected to more exploitation. I don't think even the elite
police force, the National Republican Guard will be able to do much to
protect the government. 
The key tests will be the TAP pilots who plan to strike soon in
opposition to privatisation as well as the air traffic controllers who are
threatening to strike. The government has threatened to impose a decree to
break the strike. The question is how will they enforce it. If they use
the military to force the air traffic controllers to work as was done in
Spain and Greece, it would be the final sign that the Democratic Republic
is over. Will the military even obey the government to force the
controllers back to work? It was the military which overthrew the
fascist dictatorship in 1974. 
Hence the State, in Faro at least, is proceeding with with a softly,
softly approach. There isn't a massive police presence nor is there
increased repression and controls as found in Spain or other EU countries.
It reveals how powerful and deep the 1974 Carnation Revolution remains 38 years
later. So far, the State appears to be going out its way to avoid a direct
confrontation with the masses. I do not see Fascism returning to Portugal
like in Spain, Austria, France, Germany or even the UK of course. Of
course none of this is being reported outside of Portugal. 
One thing is clear,Portugal is about to enter a revolutionary period.

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