Hundreds of police filled the main street in Belém today. Image: Filipe Amorim/ Lusa
Hundreds of police filled the main street in Belém over this issue which has inflamed all forces 'left out in the cold' Image: Filipe Amorim/ Lusa

Hundreds of police demonstrate outside Lisbon’s presidential palace

“Caretaker government has powers to resolve this. It is all politics…”

Hundreds of members of Portugal’s security forces gathered in front of Belém Palace today, in yet another action to demand the better pay and working conditions that are being denied them.

This was largely a silent protest, interspersed with the singing of the national anthem.

Today’s action started at the iconic Pastéis de Belém (pastel de nata) factory, and then made the short walk to Belém Palace. Almost everyone involved wore black, many carried Portuguese flags.

Slogans on t-shirts read messages, like: “The security of Portugal and the Portuguese depends on us, every day, for a fair salary, for a career, for the security of Portugal”; the mood, writes Lusa, was of tiredness and frustration.

The overriding message coming out of these protests is that the cause is completely understandable: this outgoing government reached a pay deal over what is termed a ‘mission supplement’ with PJ police (adding up to €700 per month on pay packets) but which it did not reciprocate through other police forces. Even president Marcelo warned of the trouble ahead.

Protests began ‘spontaneously’ earlier this month, with images of police agents sleeping on the pavement outside parliament – sometimes in driving rain – peppering social media. The unions have since become involved; demands for a review of pay and salary supplements have becoming the central demand.

The ‘platform’ of unions involved has scheduled further demos for later this week in Lisbon, and for January 31 in Porto. It has also sent an invitation to political parties in ‘pre-election’ campaign mode to meet on Friday and discuss the issue of police pay and “a position for the future”.

As police interview today by Lusa stressed, the caretaker government has the political power to resolve this situation (even though it maintains that it doesn’t).

“It’s all political”, said one GNR agent, insisting on anonymity to avoid the possibility of any kind of disciplinary repercussions. “The government doesn’t have the will to change”, he said. “They are letting us make a noise as they know we won’t stop working” (striking in the security forces is prohibited by law).

Minister for Interior Administration José Luís Carneiro has said he would like to see pay supplements incorporated into base salaries (he mentioned PSP and GNR, leaving out prison guards who are also part of these demonstrations), but that this cannot happen now. Referring to the “limitations associated with caretaking governments”, he said the changes being demanded “would have very significant budgetary impacts”. ND

Source material: LUSA