Edition 1517
16 March 2019
Edition: 1517

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Dozens of strikes set for festive season

by Brendan de Beer, in News · 13-12-2018 09:21:00 · 0 Comments

Close to 50 strike warnings have been submitted in recent days that will see workers, mostly civil servants, laying down their tools in anger this festive season.

Dozens of strikes set for festive season

Despite the current political euphoria surrounding the country’s vastly improving economy in government circles, unions have proven hard to appease. They are pushing for a series of additional concessions, which the opposition says are legitimate, when based on the ruling Socialist’s rhetoric surrounding Portugal’s growing economy.
The festive season is threatening to provide turmoil in almost all walks of life, with dozens of separate strikes being called in a concerted bid to press the government into implementing further reforms and wage increases.
Travellers could be among those worst affected by the industrial action, with SEF immigration and border workers and two large private airport security groups threatening action this festive period.
Portugal’s operating room nurses are also threatening more action for immediately after Christmas, in an ongoing protest that has already caused almost 5,000 surgeries to be postponed or cancelled since 22 November.
While the government has remained relatively reserved in criticising striking workers despite addressing scores of their demands, Portugal’s prime minister has described the nurses’ strike as “unacceptable”.
António Costa said that the strike was causing great upheaval in the health system and reminded nurses that “no one can be allowed to die because of a health worker’s right to strike.”
The prime minister was speaking during a debate on the national health system, during which he appeared to lay the blame on the doorstep of union leaders, but said it was not his job to remove them from their position.
Despite his obvious dissatisfaction, the prime minister immediately announced afterwards that workers will be allowed to take 24 and 31 December off, without those days being deducted from their leave.
Dockworkers have also had an enormous impact in recent weeks as they protest the lack of job security for casual and part-time workers.
The ongoing strike by workers at the port of Setúbal began on 5 November. At the same time, action is being staged against overtime by dockers at the ports of Lisbon, Setúbal, Sines, Figueira da Foz, Leixões, Caniçal (Madeira), Ponta Delgada and Praia da Vitória (Azores) – that is set to run into January unless employers and unions reach an agreement.
In the meantime, vehicles assembled at the Autoeuropa plant south of Lisbon are stuck in car parks, while food exports to destinations such as China are now under threat due to the expendable nature of the products.
To compound matters for the government, it could now be bracing for a Yellow Vest type protest like the ones seen in France recently.
The initiative is being promoted on Facebook and is planned for 21 December. It has already accumulated more than 12,000 people who have confirmed their presence at the blockade, which is to take place on Lisbon’s A8 motorway. An additional 50,000 people had said they were interested in attending the event.
Private individuals are also among those expressing their discontent, with Portugal’s supermarket workers this week threatening to strike on Christmas Eve.
The union representing workers at supermarkets and hypermarkets said the action is being considered as 26 months of negotiations with company bosses have delivered no progress. But it pledged everything will be done to minimise the impact on consumers. Workers are calling for higher salaries and better working conditions.
With workers increasingly disgruntled that the country’s well-documented economic growth is not translating into more cash in their pockets, Prime Minister António Costa warned that the growth of the economy did not mean that “everything is possible”.
“We can’t have this illusion that a healthy economy makes everything possible for everyone”, Costa said.
He added the economy was growing “thanks to policies” the government had enforced since coming into office in 2015, and had enabled the economy to expand in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“And, even though the economy has been growing for three years and although we have converged with the European Union for the first time in many years, the GDP [Gross Domestic Product], the country’s wealth, has only now recovered the 2008 levels.”
But as can be expected, the opposition have questioned the very fact that in spite of the country’s apparent prosperity, worker dissatisfaction is extraordinarily high.
Rui Rio, leader of the Social Democrats, who oversaw Portugal’s financial bailout and implemented a host of unpopular measures at the time, has said the country is “being misgoverned.”
Rui Rio also accused the Socialists of behaving in a manner similar to that which eventually led them to call for financial aid in that it was investing all its efforts into the present and not paying much regard to the future, when the economy might not be as buoyant as it is now. He also said the government’s narrative has set them up for failure.
“They keep on telling the country austerity is a thing of past and now workers are calling for what is legitimately theirs, but naturally, the government is unable to deliver”, argued Rui Rio.

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Edition 1517
16 March 2019
Edition: 1517

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter

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