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Portugal Invokes Special Measures to Break Airline Strike

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The Portuguese government moved on Thursday to halt a four-day strike at the TAP national airline planned for the busy Christmas period, invoking special powers that allow dismissal or in some cases criminal charges against strikers.

Portugal’s UGT umbrella union described imposition of a Labour Requisition, a rare measure, as “premature and abusive”. The unions, campaigning against privatization plans they say will lead to lower wages and job losses, are likely to challenge the order in court.

The government on Tuesday stuck to its privatization plan for TAP after three days of talks with the unions failed to persuade them to call off the airline strike set for Dec. 27-30.

“This decision will guarantee essential services to safeguard the national public interest,” the government said in a statement. The Labour Requisition will be applied to 70 percent of TAP staff involved in scheduled flights.

“It’s an exceptional situation that requires this exceptional measure,” Economy Minister Antonio Pires de Lima told a briefing. “The government will do everything in its power to protect the interests of the Portuguese.”

With around 300 daily flights planned in the period, the strike could affect some 120,000 travelers. Passengers have already canceled or rescheduled around 20,000 bookings.

The requisition clause was last invoked to break a TAP strike in 1997.

Pires de Lima said the government was open to further talks to consider any union proposals for privatization terms.

Last month, the government announced the re-launch of the privatization, in which it plans to sell a 61 percent stake to one or more large investors. The privatization was suspended in 2012 after the only bidder failed to present financial guarantees in time, but without major objections by the unions.


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