Demonstrators oppose government plans to reform GNR

POLICE unions have blasted government plans to pension off thousands of serving Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) officers as “discriminatory”.

Under new laws, military personnel serving in the GNR can take early retirement aged 55 and still receive full pension rights.

However, the laws said nothing about non-military serving GNR officers, who would have suffered a reduction in their pensions as a result in a corresponding reduction in years of service.

In response to complaints, the government clarified the situation on Thursday, November 23, by widening the number of serving GNR officers who can apply for early retirement without suffering a reduction in their pension to those having completed 36 years of service.

Pension rights

The storm started after a letter in which the Portuguese Finance Minister, Fernando Teixeira dos Santos guaranteed that serving members of the Armed Forces could be “pensioned off early without loosing the right to a full pension”. He omitted to mention affiliated GNR police force members.

Now the rules will also apply to GNR personnel, who have applied or will apply before December 31, 2006, to be placed on the reserve list having completed the 36 years of service.

The Associação Sindical dos Profissionais de Polícia (ASPP) – the most representative union of the PSP – accused the government’s attitude as “discriminatory” because it had left serving policemen outside the package of reforms.

“The government initially had said nothing about the serving members of the GNR police force, which are not counted as military personnel” said Paulo Rodrigues of the ASPP, who has asked for a meeting with the Minister for Internal Affairs.

“We consider 773 active serving policemen and another 1,000 on the retirement list meet the conditions for the full pension rights as if they had retired aged 60,” he said.  

New regulations 

From January 1, 2007, a new transitory regulation will come into force, whereby those having served between 25 and 35 years can apply to go onto the reserve list, but the application may not be approved by their commandant.  

In 2005, 1,601 requests to be transferred onto the reserve list (leading to automatic early retirement) were approved, while 591 cases were deferred.

The government, in its State Budget 2007, is looking to cut expenses in both police and armed service numbers and associated areas, such as health (a 50 per cent reduction).

• There are presently 26,000 serving GNR members of which 60 per cent are over 40 years of age.

 There are 18,000 GNR military personnel.

• The Portuguese Armed Forces currently have 42,000 serving men. In 2004, 9,762 had clocked up over 20 years of service.

ASPP believes that the government’s measures are “discriminatory” and joined a general civil service demonstration.

However, Prime Minister José Sócrates said last week that demonstrations by members of the armed forces were illegal and those taking part would be subject to disciplinary procedures. “In a democracy, the law has to be respected and obeyed by everyone and this demonstration violates the law and jeopardises the military integrity and discipline of the armed forces,” said Sócrates. 

By Chris Graeme

chrisgraeme@sapo.pt