Strike for shorter hours disrupts Portugal's health services

Portuguese public health workers are staging a 48-hour strike to pressure the government into extending a new 35-hour week to more staff.

The anti-austerity Socialist government that took power last year cut the working week for civil servants on collective contracts from 40 hours to 35 hours from July 1. But trade unions are demanding that government workers on individual contracts also be included.

The shorter working time has alarmed some officials in other countries using the shared euro currency. They fear that reversing austerity measures adopted after debt-heavy Portugal needed a 78-billion euro ($86.5 billion) bailout in 2011 could erode market confidence in Portugal and the wider eurozone.

Mostly clerical workers and technicians walked off the job Thursday, forcing the cancellation of many appointments at hospitals and health centers.