The government of Portugal has issued a “civil request,” an executive order to prevent TAP Air Portugal from striking December 27 through December 30, the busiest days of the holiday season.
Evoking “extraordinary measures” the government summoned a special “Labor Requisition” last imposed in the country in 1997.
Under Portugal’s constitution, a range of measures may be imposed by the government to guarantee “essential services” that are in the public interest in sectors vital to the nation’s economy.
The strike was called by 12 sector unions in protest against plans to privatize Tap Air Portugal in the coming months. TAP employs 12,000 workers.
Following a cabinet meeting with Economy Minister, António Pires de Lima, the measure was announced justified with the need to ensure transportation services “to the high number of Portuguese emigrants returning home for the holidays” and to prevent ”irreparable damage” to the country’s tourism sector.
In statement to the press, the government said that “this decision will guarantee essential services to safeguard the national public interest,” and that “it’s an exceptional situation that requires this exceptional measure.”
Lusa News Agency reported that this week over 20,000 passengers had already contacted TAP to re-book or cancel their flights in light of the strike.
If not averted, the impending strike could affect thousands more travelers, with around 300 flights cancellations expected. The strike could cost Tap Air Portugal an estimated financial loss of over €36 million.
The privatization policy of Portugal’s public assets is part of the of the €78 billion financial bailout signed by Portugal in 2011 with the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
Over the current year, TAP Air Portugal reportedly lost around €25 million (about $31 million) due to stoppages. The scope of the upcoming holiday season stoppage, threatening travel chaos for thousands of passengers, will be unprecedented only comparable to a general strike staged by Tap Air Portugal in 1993.
TAP Air Portugal is Portugal’s national flag carrier, operating in the United States from Newark (NJ) and Miami (FL).
In a statement, TAP said all passengers with flights for this period are advised to contact TAP through the TAP Contact Center or their travel agencies. Passengers may also contact TAP Portugal: www.flytap.com and Lisbon Airport: www.lisbon-airport.com