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Late payment of salaries affected over 7,000 workers

By ANA TAVARES – [email protected]

Portugal’s authority for work conditions has revealed that more than 700 companies were in arrears with staff wages in 2011, which affected more than 7,000 workers.

According to the annual report released by the Portuguese Authority for Work Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho – ACT), last year a total of 707 companies were behind with their salary payments leaving 7,166 employees struggling to make ends meet.

The report, which was publicly released and discussed in the Portuguese parliament last Friday, also revealed that a total of 1,130 companies, covering 13,695 employees, were investigated for late payment of wages, work reduction or suspension, bankruptcy, and temporary or permanent closure.  

The ACT analysed 102 companies carrying out collective layoffs and 133 firms reporting collective redundancies with the goal of closely following the recession’s effect on Portuguese companies and to decrease the figures of undeclared work in 2011.

Overall, more than 14,600 workers were made redundant. After examining the cases, the ACT registered 319 offences and applied fines ranging from €287,334 to €560,208.

According to the same report, 171 companies reduced or suspended work activity in 2011, affecting a total of 4,616 employees, while 142 firms shut down permanently. Also, 94 companies filed for bankruptcy or insolvency and 16 closed temporarily.

Having received over 25,000 intervention requests made by companies and workers last year, the ACT said in a press release that “this is a clear indicator of the recession’s impact on economy and, particularly, on the development of work relations”.

Company fraud

As part of their investigation, the ACT’s inspectors pressed 36 criminal charges for company fraud, illegal closure and lack of payment to Social Security. While collecting evidence, the inspectors also concluded that over €24 million is owed to 11,500 employees and to the Portuguese Social Security.

Regarding undeclared work, the ACT made over 17,000 visits and found over 3,500 offences. Stating this situation as a problem of “considerable significance”, the entity applied fines totalling between €5 million and €12 million, and issued over 1,600 warnings.

In the Algarve alone, nearly 5,000 inspection visits were carried out to examine work conditions in the region, which is the second only to Lisbon having the highest number of foreign workers, with a total of 5,922 labour contracts signed.

Health and safety

Besides evaluating the recession’s impact on Portuguese companies, the ACT is also responsible for assessing health and safety conditions and conducting investigations into work accidents.

At least 161 workers died in work-related accidents subject to the ACT’s investigation in 2011, seven of which were in the Algarve.

In total, the ACT carried out over 90,000 inspection visits in 2011, covering 600,000 workers.