More protests ahead

Public protest over cutbacks has been muted in Portugal so far compared with elsewhere in Europe, especially the violent unrest seen in Greece, but the CGTP said it plans to push for more social resistance. It has also left open the option of calling a general strike in the coming weeks.

The government's plan aims to soothe investor concerns over Portugal's creditworthiness and fight contagion from debt-stricken Greece.

Portugal aims to cut its budget deficit to 7.3 per cent of gross domestic product this year from 2009's high of 9.4 per cent, and then gradually to 2.8 per cent by 2013.

Analysts say the relatively low level of public protest in Portugal and the strategy of backing the austerity plan by the main opposition party, the centre-right PSD, for now means there is little chance of a government collapse before the next presidential mandate starts in March 2011.

"The Portuguese are a peaceful people, but there is a limit to how much they can take," Antonio Mendes, a local government councillor from Vendas Novas, said.

"Right now we are at that limit. People are struggling to pay rents, to survive."