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Portugal high court strikes down government employee austerity measure

Portugal's Constitutional Court [official website, in Portuguese] struck down [decision, in Portuguese] an austerity measure Thursday that would have made it easier for the government to lay off civil servants. The revised law applied [WSJ report] to government employees deemed redundant and that had been unemployed for more than 12 months. The law gave such employees the choice of either staying in training facilities without pay or leaving government employment and collecting unemployment benefits. The change was expected to trim the public payroll by €167 million (USD $222 million) through 2015. The court ruled the new provisions were unconstitutional, holding that the law violated guarantees of secure employment and undermined the trust between employer and employee. The Portuguese government must reduce the nations budget deficit to four percent as a condition of the €78 billion bailout the nation received [BBC report] in 2011 from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [official website].

Portugal is one of many European states struggling to recover from financial crisis of 2008. In April the Constitutional Court ruled [JURIST report] that four out of nine contested austerity measures of the 2013 state budget were unconstitutional. The court's decision came in response to the request of Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva [official website] for the court to determine whether retirees and public workers were being treated unfairly under the terms of the country's constitution. In November the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the eurozone's permanent bailout fund, the ESM, is in line with European law. The ruling came following several member states' own courts finding the ESM constitutional under their own laws, including Estonia and Germany [JURIST reports].

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