BBC World Service

In Portugal, public workers defy Carnival cutback

Alison Roberts Feb 21, 2012

Adriene Hill: Now to Portugal — another country that required some bailout help. The government there said as part of belt tightening, it wouldn’t give people the day off for Fat Tuesday celebrations. That didn’t really work.

The BBC’s Alison Roberts reports from Portugal.

Alison Roberts: It might not be as famous as its Brazilian offshoot, but Carnival in Portugal is celebrated with parades and parties across the country. There is no official holiday on the government calendar, but traditionally public employees get Tuesday off, as do many private workers. But in these times of budget cuts and austerity, Portugal’s prime minister announced public workers wouldn’t get today off after all.

With officials from the International Monetary Fund and European Union in Lisbon for their latest review of Portugal’s bailout, he said, it wouldn’t be right. Shared sacrifice, and all.

Helena Santana is a schoolteacher in Lisbon.

Helena Santana: The fact that we have to work on Carnival day doesn’t make the country wealthier. I don’t think it’s a good way to solve the financial problem. Some people have to work; some don’t, so it’s not fair.

In the end, many private workers in the country took the day anyway. And local government offices — one after another — have given their workers the day off. And where there are big street parades, they’re expected to be almost as packed as usual.

In Lisbon, I’m the BBC’s Alison Roberts for Marketplace.

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