Tag Archive for: strike

‘Just clapping doesn’t solve anything’

Despite the fact that Catarina Martins – the leader of the Left Bloc (BE) – regards the National Health Service (SNS) ‘a pearl of democracy’ and its workers ‘heroes and heroines’, working conditions are poor and staff shortages in public health threatening.

After having reviewed the shortage of doctors in the SNS, let’s now take a look at the field of nursing.

When Portugal froze nurses’ career progression and salaries during the financial crisis some ten years ago, thousands went abroad in seek of greener pastures. There are currently 20.000 Portuguese nurses working elsewhere – mainly in the UK, France, Spain, and Germany – where salaries are easily 3 times higher.

In Portugal, the ratio of nurses/inhabitants is low (6.9/1000), compared to EU countries (9.3/1000). The Independent Union of Nurses recently highlighted the lack of appreciation of the nurses by the Government, leading to another 1300 professionals leaving the country during the Covid19 pandemic.

According to the Nurses Association (OE), there are approximately 45.500 nurses working in the SNS.
‘A general nurse earns 1200 euros per month at the start of her career and will only be evaluated for upgrading every ten years’, says Guadalupe Simões, head of the Portuguese Nursing Syndicate. ‘After tax, some take home as little as 980 euros, just 315 above the minimum wage. Many have two jobs to make ends meet. Even those who have worked a lifetime can only hope to reach a salary of 1800 euros at the end of 40 years’.

The OE foresees further mass emigrations of nurses after an exhausting and unrewarded fight against the pandemic. ‘The Government must adopt policies to keep nurses in the country and that is impossible with low wages’, the outspoken president of the Association – Ana Rita Cavaco – declared. To back their demands a general strike will be called on November 3rd and 4th.

In order to recover the level of primary care damaged by the epidemic and in view of the EU Recovery Plan – aiming to rebuild a more resilient post-Covid19 Europe – the OE proposes the assignment of a family nurse to each family/patient.

‘There are currently 3000 nurses involved in the coronavirus vaccination campaign, which could be considered for this purpose. Family nurses can play a decisive role in the recovery and consolidation of people with chronic illnesses and dependents at home, who are now in a situation of greater vulnerability.’

Enjoy your weekend      Bom fim de semana      (pic Público/Sapo)

Amidst the height of the country’s fight against Covid-19, the Democratic Union of Nurses in Portugal Sindepor went on a five-day ‘wake-up call’ strike last week, during which only minimum services were provided.

Carlos Ramalho, the president of the syndicate, declared that the walkout was necessary as the nurses are exhausted and their situation in the SNS (National Health Service) deteriorating.

‘We are talking about a process of many years in which the problems have not been resolved by the Government. At this point, the work overload is such that nurses can’t take anymore’.

The union leader further stresses that Portugal is one of the OECD countries with the least number of nurses per 1,000 inhabitants. 

At the same time, the Ordem dos Enfermeiros (Order of Nurses) expressed concern about the recruitment of Portuguese nurses in Europe, revealing that hunting for nurses has intensified from countries such as Spain, the UK and the Netherlands.

These countries are offering lucrative annual contracts for hospitals and nursing homes. From Spain, there have been contracts with offers of 30,000 euros per year, almost double the salary in Portugal. The Netherlands on the other hand is providing – in addition to an ample salary – accommodation, transport and travel.

The OE recalls that ‘although the recognition of the nurses is unanimous, there is no incentive nor decent pay’. Last year more than 4,000 nurses asked the order for a declaration for emigration purposes, a record number that tripled compared to 2017 and represents an increase of 68% compared to 2018.

‘Given the severe situation we are going through – after nine months into the pandemic – it is imperative that the way nurses are hired as well as their working conditions must be improved. There are almost 20,000 nurses abroad and the Government should be concerned with creating means for them to return’, declared OE’s chairwoman Ana Rita Cavaco.

‘We just can’t afford to export more nurses’.

Keep fit                Fique saudável                                 (pic Público/Sapo)

In the heart of Lisbon – on the Santana hill between the Travessa da Pena and the Beco de São Luis – used to be the clothing manufactory of Ramiro Leão.
A textile factory of fabrics and shirts – surrounded by barracks for dying, laundry and ironing – build on top of a poor man’s cemetery of the long-gone hospital Todos os Santos (All Saints).

Ramiro Leão (1857-1934), born in Gavião moved young to the capital, where he became one of the most powerful merchants and founder of the cosmopolitan warehouse Ramiro Leão & Co (nowadays United Colors of Benneton) in the glamorous Chiado neighbourhood.
He also was the director of the Chamber of Commerce, manager of the Bank of Portugal and City Councillor of Lisbon.

Since the old factory broke down, it experienced a complete facelift and is nowadays a graceful blue eye-catcher in the skyline of Lisbon with nine apartments, a lush Mediterranean garden and a magnificent city view.

On the 11th of July, 1915 the newspaper Voz do Operário (the Worker Voice) publishes a letter from the father of a needlewoman working in the factory of Ramiro Leão. It reveals that the workers have to pay for the sewing threads they use ( 80-90 cent a week) and are forced to pay a deposit to cover any damage done to the machines they work with. Working hours are long, conditions very poor and their weekly salary only 180-220 cents.
In the August 8 edition, the Seamstresses Union – whose leaders belong to the hardcore of the Union of Socialist Women – declares to defend their companions. A committee, including three workers from the Ramiro Leão factory – Miquelina Furtado, Laurinda Pinheiro e Lucia Martins – is set up to promote a law that limits working hours. The factory manager immediately fires the three woman as ‘irreducible revolutionaries’ and ‘disturbing elements.’

In protest against this dismissal, a massive strike takes place the next day outside the gates of the factory. The strikers look for Ramiro Leão but he refuses to recognize the Union and its members. The peaceful protest lasts about four and a half hours and is finally swept away by military force.
The Ramiro Leão women’s strike was defeated but paved the way for a law in 1919, that limited working hours to eight hours a day.

Aproveite sua semana                    Enjoy your week              (pic Vozoperário)


The place was deserted when he arrived late that night at the Humberto Delgado airport in Lisbon. Not the familiar cacophony of cars, buses, trolleys, and travelers. Just silence. Only a small group of tourists stood patiently waiting outside the Arrivals hall, glued to the screens of their smartphones. What the hell was going on? The onset of another revolution? The one from some 40 years ago had also started quietly, with carnations instead of bullets in the barrels of the guns. But in that case, he certainly would have heard something alike during the flight. And although the incoming aircraft had suffered some delay due to a drone teasing the airspace above the capital earlier on, that could hardly explain the total emptiness of the place. Looking to his right, he noticed a distant cab with its doors wide open and someone sitting up front. “I ‘am sorry to bother you sir but is it possible to give me a ride into town.” The startled driver looked up from his flimsy newspaper and replied annoyed. “That can be very dangerous! People may be dragged out of the car and beaten up. There is a national strike underway.” “But is there no possibility at all? I have to go to Campo Santana, it’s only 15 minutes”, the man insisted as friendly as possible. The cabbie sighed, folded the paper and gestured him silently to the back seat.
Once driving, he became more talkative. “The new law, that enters into force on November 1st, is a complete disgrace! Only in favour of the electronic platforms. Uber is taking 25% of the profit, stashes it in tax havens and doesn’t invest even one penny back into the country.” In the meantime, the car was building up speed on a desolate Avenida Almirante Reis. “Any political support for your cause ?” his passenger asked carefully. ”Only from the Commies, the Greens, and the Block”, the driver muttered. “The same parties that voted against legislation last July. And you know what? The worst of all is, that there is no quota for these electronic services, while the maximum number of taxis per municipality is strictly fixed. That sucks. No fair competition at all! But mind you, we will not stop until there is a decent deal for the nearly 14.000 registered taxis in this country. In 1976 – just after the revolution – we also had to defend ourselves against discrimination. Back then it took us 55 days to win.” He remained wary, when he drove all the way down to the Avenida da Liberdade, in order to join the growing queue of stationed vehicles and wait for the sun to rise.

Bom fim de semana               Have a nice weekend         
(pic DN/SAPO)

‘There are nurses who don’t care anymore if they are fired’ – Ana Rita Cavaco.

In the week that Apple presents its newest iPhone X with face recognition, Portuguese nurses show their faces in a 5-day strike, as the climax in a dragging conflict between the nursing trade union (SEP) and the Minister of Health – Adalberto Campos Fernandes – who promptly called the strike ‘illegal and immoral.’

‘We are still counting, but everything indicates, that an overwhelming majority – over 90% – of the nurses are supporting this action’, says José de Azevedo, leader of the SEP on the first day of the strike.

The conflict with the Ministry of Health already started before summer, when nurse specialists – in particular, the midwifery professionals – asked for a higher salary that, as a result of the country’s economic cutbacks in 2009, had been frozen for 8 years.

There are about 6000 nurse specialists working in the country, comprising nurses in mental health, pediatrics, rehabilitation, surgery and community health. Midwifery nurses are the biggest group, most of them working in the Obstetric departments of hospitals.

The number of qualified nurses in Portugal is – with 1 in 200 inhabitants – one of the lowest in the EU.
‘There is a lack of 30.000 nurses in the country and sick leave has doubled to 10% over the last two years’, says Ana Rita Cavaco, president of the Portuguese Nurse Association.

‘We have proposed the Ministry to train 3000 additional nurses over the next 10 years. That would cost the Government 65 million euro – a mere 0,6% of the health budget – but we are still waiting for an answer.’

Nurses in Portugal earn a salary of 1200 euros gross per month – twice the minimum wage – irrespective their experience or additional training.
It is therefore not surprising that more than 15.000 of them have left the country in search for greener pastures [Diaspora ], in particular England, where nurse specialists earn nearly twice as much.

Apart from low wages, nurses also criticize the lack of career perspectives – that was canceled as well in 2009 – and demand the reintroduction of specializations, together with a gradual wage increase of 2400 euros per month over 3 years.

Finally, the nursing trade union claims a 35-hour working week for all nurses, whether they are specialized or not.

The Federation of Medical Specialists supports the nurses’ demands and announced in their turn a doctor’s strike of 2 days in October.

It is better to stay fit in Portugal this fall.

BOM FIM DE SEMANA                                                                                                           (pictures Lusa)