"It is still too early for very concrete data as information is still being collected by union leaders from north to south of the country,” said Artur Sequeira, president National Federation of Public and Social Office Workers' Unions (FNSTFPS). “What union leaders have transmitted to me is that it is difficult to find any schools that are open.”

Turnout for the strike is well up on the last stoppage, which was 85%, he added, promising further details for later in the day.

The nationwide strike was called by the federation in protest "against the chronic shortage" of non-teaching staff in schools but also on issues such as the process of municipalisation of education, the demand for a special career structure for these staff “that restores their dignity", and a guarantee of levels of specialisation for workers who perform specific functions such as helping students with special educational needs or serious disabilities.

Staff shortages and the call for new legislation to require student-staff ratios top the list of claims, said Sequeira, stressing that this has been an issue neglected by several governments.

The 4,300 non-teaching staff that have been taken on as public servants under the PREVPAP programme to stamp out casual employment in the sector have been all but outweighed by equal numbers of retirements in the last parliament, he said.

"The result is not null only because 2,550 workers were hired, who are still in the system today, with the [contractual] extension they had from last year to this year,” said Sequeira. “Of these, 1,067 will be taken on as staff as a result of the competition that was opened at the end of the last school year, for Ministry of Education schools.”

This year alone, he noted, more than 500 part-time competitions have been opened the country’s schools, while where in 2000 there were more than 85,000 non-teaching staff in Portugal’s schools, today there are fewer than 75,000. The 6,000 new hires that unions are demanding represent barely half of the difference, he stressed.

A gathering by union officials was scheduled for 2 p.m. outside the ministry in Lisbon, to approve a motion to submit to the government.