“It is practically impossible to say there is no money”, admit critics
Just as teachers syndicates vowed, yesterday’s demonstration in Lisbon was indeed the largest ever: over 150,000 people turned up to show the strength of feeling for teachers’ demands.
As meetings are due to resume this week between the various syndicates and the government, leader writers admit: “as every day passes, it becomes practically impossible to allege that there is no money to satisfy the demands of teachers”. The EU bazooka is pouring billions of euros into the country at the same time that reports suggest that in certain cases many millions are still to be assigned – ergo: there is no shortage of money available to the government right now.
But it’s not just the fact that money is available to meet teachers’ revindications. It is that, also with ‘every day that passes’, it is becoming “almost impossible to contain the spread of this struggle into other sectors”, writes Eduardo Dâmaso, editorial deputy director of Correio da Manhã. “And this is a serious problem for the government. Particularly in a country that has transformed the ‘freezing’ of salaries and careers into a perverse instrument of social inequality”.
Elsewhere police, court clerks, nurses, doctors, pre-hospital emergency workers, train drivers, pharmaceutical workers, are all bristling with plans for industrial action and demands for better pay and conditions.
There are ‘new movements’ taking deep grievances to the streets, explains Expresso. Teachers’ issues are not an isolated problem. They are scorching a path through the public sector.
And this is why there has been zero sign of give.
Yesterday saw the same old ‘demands’; the same old threats of strike actions continuing – and further anger that ‘minimum services’ in schools have now passed to making it a requirement that all pupils have at least three class periods per day.
In a live interview in Lisbon last night, Mário Nogueira, the secretary general of teachers federation FENPROF, appealed to schools to stage “moments of stoppage and permanence at (school) gates” on Wednesday (February 15) and Friday (February 17) when the next meetings with the education ministry are scheduled.
He was adamant that if a deal is not reached “new strikes and demonstrations will come in the beginning of March”. Indeed, Fenprof has already put in all the necessary ‘pre-strike notices’. Teachers have no intention whatsoever in backing down to what they believe to be within their rights.
Covering yesterday’s latest demo (there have been three mega protests by teachers in recent weeks) Reuters remarks: “Portugal is one of Western Europe’s poorest countries, with government data showing more than 50% of workers earned less than 1,000 euros per month last year. The minimum wage is 760 euros per month”.