Portugal, a country of strikes

The first half of 2023 was marked by successive strikes covering numerous sectors. From train drivers to doctors and from teachers to journalists. Even police officers gathered to protest against the lack of their right to strike.

Discontent is high and workers ready to use their voice. Portuguese are of the opinion that life is generally going well but that their financial situation leaves much to be desired.

Looking at the figures from the Directorate-General for Employment and Labour Relations (DGERT), it is found that the number of strikes last year increased by 25% compared to 2021, being the highest since 2013 – at the time of the financial crisis. And in January this year, the number of strike notices almost quadrupled compared to the same month in 2022.

The year started with a strike by Comboios de Portugal (Portuguese Railways) for a pay rise to compensate for the loss of purchasing power and quickly spilled over to the other sectors of public transport. 

The 2023 judicial year opened with a strike in January, against the lack of staff, the freezing of promotions, and the degradation of justice that undermines the functioning of courts. It did not stop there, with more strikes in February and April. The effects of the strikes on the justice system are devastating with the postponement of thousands of hearings and trials in the courts.

Journalists are not left out of the fight, with TV1 going on strike in March for raises in payment, an increase in meal allowance, and 25 days of vacation. Employees from the news agency Lusa followed in April and announced new strikes in June and August and also RTP (Radio and Television Portugal) unions threaten to take action in the absence of their ‘decent’ requests.

In February, technical and administrative staff from three hospitals in Lisbon united, to claim a collective labour agreement in all State-run hospitals. A strike in March was suspended after the hospitals finally gave in to their demands.

Nurses started paralyzing services in February. There were massive demonstrations countrywide and even the private sector joined in for better pay and working conditions.

As for doctors, a national strike of two days took place in March over the ‘lack of measures’ in the SNS (National Health Service) and the ‘unacceptable proposal of the Ministry on salary scales. New strikes have been announced in August. 

For teachers, the second term started in January with strikes against the government’s proposals for the revision of the recruitment regime and for better career perspectives. 45,000 teachers signed a petition. They warned that the protest would not stop ‘any time soon’, and they were right.

There were massive demonstrations and strikes all over the country. Fenprof (Federation of Teachers) called for convergence between unions in defense of teachers’ rights and public schools.

Negotiations with the government are deadlocked and strikes are back and forth in the north, center, and south of the country. Developments that do not bode well for the coming school year. Between pressure, threats, and hopes, the teachers’ struggle reached Brussels, where they try to find the answers they do not have in Portugal.

Enjoy your week                   Approveite a semana               (pic Sapo)

Health, Housing, and Education top the list

Portugal is a dissatisfied country according to a recent opinion poll undertaken by the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE) for the newspaper Expresso. Housing, Education, Health, and Justice top the list of citizens’ complaints.

Instead of spending time on bilateral agreements forged overseas, the government of António Costa better figure out a solution for all ‘who suffer months or even years on waiting lists for a consultation at the National Health Service, and for the younger generations who have had their learning hijacked by the pandemic, lack of teachers and continuous strikes.’

Moreover, attention is needed to the ‘structural lack of homes, the incompetent Justice system, and the urgent necessity to draw up a national plan in ending the waste of water from dams and rivers’ in view of the increasing climate crisis.

Expresso’s interpretation of the poll stresses that – although in the past it has always been for granted that the State guarantees a certain quality of life, even to those who are struggling financially – in the poll even ‘quality of life’ is poorly rated with over 80% of the respondents showing utter dissatisfaction with life in general and nearly 90% not being satisfied with the availability of housing.

The combatting of corruption saw an 80% level of dissatisfaction.
In the opinion of the Eurobarometer over 90% of the Portuguese believe corruption is common in the country. Two-thirds consider that the level of corruption has increased compared to 2022.

Different regions showed different answers. For example, with regard to National Health, over 60% of citizens in the north were little or not satisfied whereas this number rises to more than 90% in the south (Algarve/Alentejo). Education too is perceived differently. In the north only 35% consider themselves to be satisfied with the quality of education offered by the State. In the Algarve/Alentejo region, the number falls to a mere 20%.

Regarding confidence in the Institutions, those questioned have the most confidence in the police (80%), Armed Forces (75%), their Parish council, and President Marcelo da Sousa (70%). The least confidence is demonstrated against political parties (80% do not trust them), the government (65% without confidence), 60% distrust parliament, 55% the media, and 50% the Catholic Church.

Citizens want more participation in political decisions. Over 80% want more referenda on ‘important matters’ and a sizable majority (75%) want changes in the electoral system so that people can vote more for individuals and less for parties.

Enjoy the week            Approveite a semana               (pic Público/Sapo)