By NATASHA SMITH
PORTUGAL’S POSTAL system was thrown into chaos last week by a repeat of the postal strikes across Portugal that took place in November and at the start of December.
A general strike on December 27 was followed by a two-day strike on December 28 and 29 by staff at distribution and sorting centres across Portugal.
More than 50 per cent of postal workers in the north, including Porto, were on strike last week and in the south, the trade union figures revealed that more than 40 per cent of staff went on strike.
Due to the fact that more workers were involved in last week’s walk outs (at least four key trade unions out of a total of 13 which represent postal workers, instructed their members to strike), and the fact they were held over a prolonged period of three days, more services in the national mail network were disrupted than during earlier industrial action this winter.
According to the Sindicato Nacional dos Trabalhadores dos Correios e Telecomunicações (SNTCT), one of the main trade unions for postal and communications workers, the amount of people on strike last week was double the amount than previous industrial actions. As a result, areas of the postal system affected included transportation, sorting, distribution and customer support services.
During the strike at the beginning of December, 28.4 per cent of the national postal staff went on strike and between November 20 and 24, 31.7 per cent of staff at sorting centres went on strike. CTT said “this lower amount allowed us to maintain a normal service across most of the country”.
Conflicting explanations have been given for the reasons behind the strikes by Correios de Portugal (CTT), the national postal service, and the trade unions. CTT published a news bulletin on its website stating that the reasons behind the strikes by Correios de Portugal (CTT), the national postal service, and the trade unions. CTT published a news bulletin on its website stating that the reasons behind the strikes were the same as for the others over the past two months.
It said the strikes were reactions to allegations that CTT was transferring the national postal service to Mailtec, which many believed would jeopardise 400 people’s jobs. CTT attempted to quell the allegations by releasing statements during the first set of strikes as well as last week, which guaranteed that there were no jobs in jeopardy and health plans were not going to be made obsolete for postal workers and benefits would not be altered.
CTT did confirm, however, that in an effort to improve the quality of the service of the postal system for customers and to reward their fidelity, a company called Mailtec had been hired.
The Sindicato Nacional dos Trabalhadores dos Correios e Telecomunicações (SNTCT), one of the main trade unions for postal and communications workers, said the reasons behind the strikes were “irregularities with regard to Christmas bonus payments, non declaration to Segurança Social (social security) for the Subsídio de Assiduidade (a bonus for being on time for work), delays in social security paperwork and poor working conditions”.
Prior to the industrial action, CTT released a statement informing the public that the strikes could cause a diminished quality of service and inconvenience to customers, individuals and businesses. CTT guaranteed to do everything possible to maintain the levels of quality service and to deliver priority mail like pensions, pharmaceutical packages, registered letters and Correio Azul (express post).
A spokesman for CTT confirmed that the three largest sorting centres in Lisbon, Coimbra and Vila Nova de Gaia were on strike last week and “others went on strike as well, which caused increased disruptions in postal delivery”.
The Resident spoke to postal workers in the Algarve, who said “there were strikes across the country last week from Wednesday to Friday. The general strike took place on December 27 and on December 28 and 29, sorting centres as well as distribution depots in the Algarve went on strike.”
On the final day of strikes last week, a member of staff at one post office in the western Algarve who asked not to be named told The Resident, “letters and parcels are starting to pile up because we cannot send them to the sorting centres. They have to stay here until they re-open after the New Year.”
She added that she believed there were valid reasons behind the strikes and many staff were not happy with the working conditions.
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