The nurses have been staging sporadic walkouts for months to press their demands for better pay, fewer working hours and lower retirement ages. The government has enacted a rarely used legal measure called a civil requisition to force them back to work. Labor groups representing the nurses are challenging the move in the courts.
Carlos Ramalho, head of the Portuguese Nurses' Democratic Trade Union, started his hunger strike Wednesday across the road from Belem Palace, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa's official residence. Ramalho says he will stay there until the government agrees to negotiate.