Prime Minister blames court

Pedro Passos Coelho’s speech last Sunday (September 1) in Castelo de Vide was a cry of outrage and disbelief regarding the Constitutional Court’s decision to reject a lay-off bill in the public sector.

The measure was expected to save the government approximately €170 million and aimed to place workers into other jobs by first reducing their pay and then letting them go after roughly one year if they had not found another job.

In his speech, the Portuguese leader launched a verbal attack against the court’s judges, accusing them of lacking “common sense”.

“We do not need to revise the Constitution to fulfill the bail-out programme and implement these measures; what is needed is common sense,” Passos Coelho said.

“Has anyone asked the 900,000 unemployed individuals in this country what the Constitution has done for them until today?”, he questioned, adding that the younger generations are not to blame for what has happened, and that the Constitution on its own does not guarantee employment in the private sector.

The head of PSD stressed the government’s obligation to lower expenses and compared it to a private company that must sack workers in order to decrease its deficit.

“But certain interpretations of the Constitution see it differently. They are not of good sense,” he said.

Passos Coelho guaranteed the government would find an alternative solution, but stated that “patch-up” measures would affect the country’s credibility.

The eighth and ninth regular commitments of the bail-out programme conducted by the troika begin this month, and the controversial decision by the Constitutional Court has struck the Prime Minister’s confidence in smooth-sailing negotiations.

“Today I already cannot tell them (troika) that there won’t be problems with these measures. And if they ask how to replace them, I’ll have more difficulties in answering. But I will answer and I will do what the prime minister is supposed to do,” he said.

Earlier this year, the court had already prevented the government from reducing holiday bonuses and public sector advantages, considering it would not be fair to target civil servants for reductions in benefits in order to meet the terms of the bail-out.