Mariana Vieira da Silva as Minister for the Presidency
Mariana Vieira da Silva as Minister for the Presidency frequently presents major policy announcements. Image: Rodrigo Antunes/ Lusa

Government lays out proposed salary increases for 2023

Syndicates have yet to comment on ‘differentiated’ plan, ‘favouring lower paid workers’

The government has put its ‘ducks in a row’ today, ahead of salary negotiations due to go ahead with public sector workers’ syndicates.

The plan involves a sliding scale of increases, aimed at favouring lowest paid workers.

For example, the lowest paid should see minimum wages rise to €761.58 from the current €705.

Minister of the Presidency Mariana Vieira da Silva has explained that this represents an increase of 8%. In cash terms, it will mean another €56.58 on monthly wage packets. It’s a decision that will cover 123,607 workers.

Like a lot of the government’s ‘announcements’ in the last few months, today’s is filled with different numbers and percentages, and there is the distinct feel that spin is being spun. Hence perhaps why there has been no instant response from the syndicates which will be studying the small print, and preparing for ‘battle’ (negotiations).

Expresso begins its appraisal suggesting the government “guarantees increases above 5.5% for all those who earn up to €1,000” – meaning a second tier of employees, not those on the bare minimum wage but very close to it.

Then there is the ‘guarantee’ that all workers in the public sector will receive an annual increase of “at least €52, or a minimum of 2%” for the highest paid workers.

It is this bracket that makes up the bulk of public sector workers in Portugal: civil servants earning up to €2,600 per month. This group involves 87% of public sector workers, says Expresso, which translates into roughly 645,000 people.

Weaving the narrative round again, Ms Vieira da Silva said that the €52 every worker can expect represents a 5.5% increase for civil servants earning up to €1,000 a month (meaning those not on the bare minimum wage).

The minister then produced another percentage. “The mechanism for salarial updating guarantees that salaries of public administration, on average, will increase by 3.6% during the next year”.

So there we have it, public sector salaries are increasing by 8%, 5.5%, 3.6% and 2%… depending on what workers are currently being paid.

This pledge by the government will have an impact on the State Budget for 2023 of €738 million, said Ms Vieira da Silva.

The minister added that the 2% increase (the ‘guarantee’ of at least another €52 per year) would not stand simply for 2023, it will continue for 2024, 2025 and 2026… “in this way, all public sector workers will receive an increase of at least €208in the total of the next four years, until the end of the legislature” … Yes, 52 multiplied by four does indeed make 208, but it is still a very small pay increase when broken down into monthly chunks.

This is where the day’s announcement quietly came to a halt. Ms Vieira da Silva recalled that the government had come up with these differentiated increases in order to privilege the lowest monetary scales (the people who somehow manage to get through each month with only €705 to juggle with).

Expresso explains that the plan still presents “increases below inflation for 2022” for the vast majority of public sector workers.

“This proposal also falls short of the demands by syndicates”, says the paper – recalling that the STE (aligned to UGT) wants to see ALL workers receive 7% increases; FESAP (also aligned to UGT) is calling for 7.4% increases – and the Frente Comum is demanding an extra 10% minimum, with a minimum of €100 extra for all public sector workers.

In other words, all the details being minutely laid out this afternoon are unlikely to satisfy. Mariana Vieira da Silva reiterated that “in the face of current uncertainty” the government wanted to take a position ‘that was not greater than the steps it can take’.

There is a second ‘package’ in tow, she added, involving career progressions, and monetary increases that could come. All the figures and percentages boil down to “a budgetary impact of a further €426 million, said the minister.

Syndicates’ responses have yet to come.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com