Portuguese election brings a crush of labor demands

AP News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2015 10:38 AM

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — In the run-up to an October general election, Portuguese labor groups are stepping up their pressure for higher pay and better working hours, with police hinting they will stop handing out traffic fines.

Police and nurses have staged numerous protests in recent years as the center-right coalition government implemented pay and pension cuts and tax hikes in return for the country's 78 billion-euro ($86 billion) bailout in 2011. The protests — rarely violent — have slackened off over the past year since the three-year bailout period ended and the economy began to improve.

But with voters due to choose a new government on Oct. 4, the political temperature is rising again.

Police representatives said Tuesday they would stage protests during the election campaign to demand a monthly pay increase of 50 euros ($55) and a right to take their pension at age 60, compared with the usual 66.

Paulo Rodrigues, head of the Police Trade Union Association, said the current government "can't be trusted." He told reporters that from Aug. 24, officers dealing with the public would incline more toward "prevention, guidance, explanation than repression" — a comment suggesting fines wouldn't be imposed.

Nurses plan regional strikes in coming weeks to press their case for a pay increase and shorter working hours.

Recent opinion polls have indicated that the two governing parties, which are running together, and the main opposition Socialist Party are roughly neck-and-neck in voting intentions.