Education Workers in Portugal Fight Back

Image credit: Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP

After a month-long, rotating strike that began in mid-January, 150,000 teachers and supporters staged a major demonstration in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday, Feb. 11. The demonstration by teachers was probably the largest single action by educators in Portugal’s history, and showed the anger that has been building for years among education workers. In all, eight unions representing education workers participated in the protests and strike.

We are outraged,” said one, who listed the many complaints that drove them to this strike: low salaries, unjust and discriminatory evaluations, “inhuman” schedules, distance between homes and teaching assignments, and lack of willingness to compromise by the government. One told a reporter, “We’re really tired, no one is listening to us. This government needs to listen to us.” Another said simply, “I feel robbed every day of my life.” Many, tired of being treated as insignificant on so many levels, carried small placards saying “Respeito” (respect).

These actions by education workers in Portugal come at the same time as health care workers are also demanding better pay and improved conditions, and the largest umbrella union in the country is also holding protests against inflation, and demanding pay increases to keep up with rising costs of living.

These actions are signs that working people in Portugal have had enough. And they’re joining the millions of other workers in Europe who are also starting to rise up and fight back. Is this a sign of things to come?