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Portugal considers tampering with religious holidays

The Portuguese government is in talks with the Catholic Church about changing the dates of religious holidays as part of a crackdown on the cherished Portuguese custom 'throwing in' Monday or Friday to create a four-day weekend.

The conservative government wants to end the tradition of so- called "bridges" whereby workers also take off a Friday or Monday whenever a public holiday falls on a Thursday or Tuesday.

Having several four-day weekends a year dents national output. The government says Portuguese productivity stands at 60% of the European Union average.

Portugal has 12 public holidays per year, as well as local 'festas' when towns and cities close down to celebrate their patron saints.

The Labor Ministry, which plans to introduce changes to the Labor Law, including more flexible working hours, said it wants to shift almost all public holidays to Fridays or Mondays.

It wants the church's consent to ensure four religious holidays - including Corpus Christi and All Saints' Day - fall on those days, though senior church leaders have already spoken out against the changes.

"It would mean rubbing out society's symbols in the name of economics," said Lisbon Patriarch Jose Policarpo (pictured).

Trade unions, too, have indicated they will resist the alterations in upcoming labor negotiations with the government.

Public Holidays in Portugal (Global Sources)
Josť Cardinal da Cruz Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisboa (


17 Sep 2002