Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Porto, northern Portugal, on Saturday to denounce unemployment, poverty and privatisations.
According to local police, at least 3,000 persons took part in the demonstrations, held in the same town where, on Friday and Saturday, EU heads of State and Government made commitments to work towards a more social Europe.
“If they have social concerns, it’s not a summit that’s needed, but concrete actions on the ground,” French news agency AFP quoted laid-off oil worker Telmo Silva as saying. ”We know companies have no social concerns.”
Silva was one of 150 employees who lost their jobs recently when a major oil refinery in Portugal closed down. The 36-year-old accuses Galp, the company that employed him for 15 years, of “using the energy transition to eliminate jobs, cut salaries and scrap benefits.”
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, had stated on multiple occasions that the Porto social summit was meant to reassure Europeans.
After a series of discussions with representatives of trade unions and employers’ associations on Friday, EU leaders on Saturday approved an “action plan” on social issues that had been presented in early March by the European Commission.
“The workers feel the necessary answers have not been given,” said Isabel Camarinha, secretary-general of the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, CGTP, which organised Saturday’s protest. “We have to fight against this policy of low salaries, poverty and the deteriorating public services.”
“This European summit is a disappointment; it has resulted in a series of good intentions and not a single concrete measure,” added the leader of the Left Bloc, who joined the demonstration after a counter-summit with other leaders of the anti-Liberal European left.
The idea of harmonising minimum wages in the EU by reviewing upward those at the lower end of the scale was discussed by the heads in Porto, but it is also one of the issues on which European countries are divided.
The Brussels Times