Thousands demonstrate in Portugal to demand higher wages and food price caps By Reuters

By Sergio Gonçalves and Miguel Pereira

LISBON (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters swarmed downtown Lisbon on Saturday demanding higher wages and pensions, as well as government intervention to limit soaring food prices they say are strangling already tight budgets.

Metalworker Paula Gonçalves, 51, said people were “protesting against low wages, precariousness and for more justice” for workers.

“We the workers are the ones who produce, we give everything we have…and the profit is entirely for the employers and nothing for us,” she said.

Portugal is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe and official data shows that more than 50% of Portuguese workers earned less than 1,000 euros ($1,067) per month last year, while the minimum wage is only 760 euros per month.

According to Eurostat data, the minimum wage in Portugal – measured in purchasing power parities and not at current prices – in 2023 is 681 euros per month, the 12th lowest of the 15 European Union countries that have a minimum wage. It compares to 726 euros in Poland, 775 euros in Greece or 798 euros in Spain.

Portugal’s biggest umbrella union, the CGTP, which has called for the protests, is demanding an immediate increase in wages and pensions of at least 10% and wants the government to impose ceilings on the price of basic foodstuffs.

Portuguese Economy Minister Antonio Costa Silva on Friday ruled out any government intervention to stem soaring food prices, considering the market to be the best price-setting mechanism.

As of January 1, salaries of civil servants increased by an average of 3.6% compared to 2022 levels and those of the private sector increased by 5.1%, while pensions increased by a maximum of 4.83 %, according to government data.

Portuguese inflation slowed to 8.2% in February from 8.4% the previous month. Prices for unprocessed food products, such as fruits and vegetables, jumped 20.11%.

A year after Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa won a majority in parliament, he faces street protests and strikes by teachers, doctors, railway workers and other professionals.

“Every time I go to the supermarket I see that the (prices of) products are increasing a little more every day and salaries are not keeping up… there is an urgent need to cap the increase in the cost of living,” said Ana Amaral, 51 years old. , hospital administrative assistant.

($1 = 0.9376 euros)


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