Portugal teachers take to streets as wave of discontent intensifies By Reuters

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© Reuters. School teachers demonstrate for better salaries and working conditions in Lisbon, Portugal, February 11, 2023. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

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By Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira

LISBON (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of teachers took to Lisbon’s streets on Saturday in one of the biggest protests in Portugal in recent years as the Socialist government faces a wave of discontent over the cost of living crisis.

“(We) have been badly treated for a long time,” said Portuguese language teacher Maria Coelho, 55, as she held a banner reading “Respect” at the protest organised by the FENPROF union.

“We are here today and we will be here for many more to come,” she added.

The union said it expected more than 100,000 people to take part in the protest. No police estimate of attendance was immediately available.It was the third time in less than a month that teachers and school workers have held mass demonstrations in Portugal.

Teachers on the lowest pay scale make around 1,100 euros ($1,174.25) per month but even teachers in higher bands typically earn less than 2,000 euros. They also want the government to speed up career progression.

“I feel robbed every day of my life,” said special needs teacher Albertina Baltazar. “(We want) respect for our profession.”

Education Minister Joao Costa said negotiations with teachers’ unions were ongoing and that they hoped to reach an agreement soon.

A year after Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa won a majority in parliament, he is facing a slump in popularity and street protests not just by teachers but by other professionals.

Portugal is one of Western Europe’s poorest countries, with government data showing more than 50% of workers earned less than 1,000 euros per month last year. The minimum wage is 760 euros per month.

Portugal’s biggest umbrella union, the CGTP, held several protests and strikes across the country on Thursday against rising prices and urged the government to increase workers’ pay.

Nurses have also been striking due to lack of career advancement and doctors are expected to walk out for two days next month.

On Feb. 25, the movement ‘Fair Life’ is encouraging people to protest in Lisbon over the cost of living crisis. Inflation is close to three-decade highs.

House prices in Portugal rose 18.7% in 2022, the biggest increase in three decades, and rents have also increased significantly.

“If we are persistent and if we do not abandon the fight I’m convinced the government will really have to listen to us,” said Carlos Faria, a 47-year-old primary school teacher.

($1 = 0.9368 euros)

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