In a press conference at the end of her visit to the city of New Bedford, as part of her trip to the USA, Berta Nunes justified with the covid-19 pandemic the long waiting lists for help and difficulties in booking online appointments.
"The impact of the pandemic has meant that the consulates have been unable to attend in person for some time", which has hampered the normal functioning and forced a reorganisation, which is still ongoing, said the secretary of state.
The government official said that the consular network has received reinforcements of staff every year, including last year, but one of the biggest problems in the United States concerns the payments that are being offered to new workers.
“Here in the United States we have the problem of recruiting and retaining people because of what we are paying at the moment”, declared Berta Nunes, adding that the consuls have conveyed the difficulties of “recruiting locally and retaining people”.
“We are counting on having made the respective union negotiation by the end of the year and having approved the new remuneration tables, which will solve this problem in our consulates”, she said.
Berta Nunes also added that one of the priorities for the consular network in the United States is to start a remote consular service centre, which “is part of the new consular management model”.
"There are already call centres where we have people in Portugal trained to answer phone calls, to respond to e-mails, to make appointments, to give information, which are different from country to country", said the secretary of State.
“The pandemic had a very, very strong impact, but on the other hand the pandemic forces us to accelerate all these measures, so that we can respond to people who need consular services”,.
Asked about a possible expansion of the consular network to other points in the United States that are receiving more Portuguese in recent years, the secretary of state said that the “evolution of the Portuguese community” is being monitored.
“Resources are always limited, but yes, we are aware that our community is also going to other places, namely to Texas (…) and we are also following this evolution of our community”, said Berta Nunes.