The general strike against austerity began in Spain and Portugal in the middle of last night, with picket lines at bin, bus and post depots.
There were around 30 pickets at one Lisbon bin depot from 10pm. Workers chanted “Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal—the struggle is international”. Left wing activist groups were warmly received.
“Angela Merkel says that she will be stubborn,” said refuse worker Joao Lucas. “We have to be stubborn as well, or else we lose. Working people produce everything, but the government is taking money from our wages, the welfare state and social security.”
Bin workers’ strikes have been solid in other Portuguese cities too after a series of local disputes.
At the central post depot in Lisbon 50 pickets were keeping warm with bonfires, barbecues and wine. At the midnight shift change there was joy as no-one turned up to try and cross the picket line.
“It’s fantastic that workers everywhere are striking today,” said postal worker Paolo. “It’s a wonderful struggle like I haven’t seen for decades. I was three years old during the revolution, and this is just like it.”
Over at the bus depot, riot police had to fight their way through hundreds of pickets and students singing revolutionary songs.
Across the border in Spain, electricity consumption dropped 15 percent as the strike took effect. At the Alcorcon bus station near Madrid, police fired rubber bullets into the air to get past the pickets.
They eventually got a small number of buses out over an hour late, and half of these had to return within minutes with their windows smashed.
By morning unions estimated that 80 percent of workers were joining the strike. Thousands rallied for a mass picket in Madrid’s Gran Via.
Demonstrations were planned in both countries and around Europe later today, as well as shorter general strikes in Greece and Italy.
Thanks to Mark Bergfeld in Lisbon and Sam Robson in Madrid