News Summary: Portuguese strike over austerity

News Summary: Portuguese unions hold major strike over austerity; public services hardest hit

Associated Press

WALKOUT: A national 24-hour strike against austerity measures by Portuguese labor unions shut down some healthcare services and most transportation. The protest went to the heart of the current debate in Europe over whether to ditch debt-reducing austerity policies and adopt more growth measures. Portugal is looking at a third year of recession, and its jobless rate could hit 18.5 percent next year.

STAYING THE COURSE: The government said it won't budge from an austerity strategy that includes pay cuts, tax hikes and layoffs, which it insists will help restore the bailed-out country's financial health.

MORE TO COME: Portuguese business leaders and opposition political parties joined labor unions in appealing for changes, but the government is preparing new reforms. If it doesn't stick with the planned cuts, creditors can stop bailout fund disbursements, leaving the country at risk of bankruptcy.

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