The first government to ban strikes in this crisis

Submitted by AWL on 28 April, 2020 - 12:14 Author: Mohan Sen
Lisbon

Portugal’s social democratic government has for years been cited as a model, particularly among leftish anti-Brexit campaigners.

It has done better than other European governments, reversing many austerity measures and expanding elements of social provision, but within a neo-liberal framework.

In the pandemic, Portugal has had a lighter toll than elsewhere. (928 deaths so far; the virus arrived later, reaching 10 deaths on 21 March, by which time neighbouring Spain had already had 1381; a lockdown from 23 March “flattened” the curve from early April, even if it has not yet pushed it down much.) But this “left” government has become the first in Europe to ban strikes in economic sectors designated essential.

And it is not hypothetical: in March the government used its powers to force striking dockers in the port of Lisbon back to work.

The British government has not bothered to ban strikes. So onerous and restrictive are the procedures required for industrial action to be legal here even in usual times that in the lockdown they have simply ceased to function, bringing us much closer to all strikes being illegal. But many “Section 44” walkouts have won gains.

In Portugal as in Britain, workers have continued to struggle and take action in defiance of dictats. More of that is needed, under a capitalist “left” government as much as under the Tories.

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