Nurses begin month-long overtime strike

Strike adds to mounting pressure on mainland Portugal’s State health system 

With the deadlock between Portugal’s central government and mainland doctors still unbroken, the nation’s nurses represented by union SNE have now added their own overtime ban into the complicated mix.

The strike is set to run until November 25. Its intention is to get the PS Socialist government to correct what SNE  calls “wage stagnation” across the mainland.

In a statement, the union says “this fight by nursing workers is aimed at getting the government of the Republic, as the governments of the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira have done*, to correct pay reversals resulting from legislation passed in 2022” regarding the way years of professional practice are accounted for. 

According to the union, the legislation creates “an injustice made worse by the impact on the amount paid for overtime work.”

SNE’s demands focus on “starting the process of reviewing the career and salary scale with representatives from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health and correcting the stagnation in nurses’ salaries over the last nine years, by signing a negotiating protocol for a Global Collective Labour Agreement.”

This strike is additional to the one announced by SINDEPOR, the democratic union of nurses, running from November 3 to December 31.

As SINDEPOR has said in a statement: “The response capacity of the SNS is worsening day by day, to the detriment of all Portuguese people, whether they are SNS professionals or not (…) We have no doubt that with more satisfied workers, the quality of the SNS response will increase, and nurses are the largest professional class in this service.”

The mounting problems of Portugal’s State health system have seen all kinds of ‘forecasts’ for the coming month, none of them positive.

Commentators however stress the sense of chaos is unlikely to see any kind of ministerial reshuffle, for the simple reason very few people would want to take over from health minister Manuel Pizarro, who is understood to be intending to stay in his role until the municipal elections of 2025, when he is expected to run as the future mayor of Porto.

*The governments of the autonomous regions have not only managed to satisfy wage demands of nurses; they have also settled the issue of teachers’ frozen pay scales, an issue that central government insists it cannot afford to address fully. ND