Public sector prepares to fight government

Public sector trade-union representatives are preparing to wage a battle against the “unsustainable” policies of the Portuguese government, which they accuse of “cheating” and “acting in bad faith”.

Nobre dos Santos, FESAP coordinator and SINTAP secretary-general, claimed during a press conference in Porto: “We have to let the government know that enough is enough. We must take action but we must do it smartly.”

He admitted that strike action should not be taken lightly because it can prove expensive for the workers and so should be implemented as a last resort, after other “remedial measures have been tried”.

Nobre dos Santos spoke to the press after a regional meeting for local representatives, delegates and officers for the Porto trade union section. Similar meetings are scheduled to take place across the country , including the Azores and Madeira islands, until January 22. The aim is to debate the country’s current situation and define a plan of action.

Main criticism is over the several salary and benefit cuts civil servants saw implemented by the government last year and the recent IMF report (see story on pages 2 and 3) which forecast a 20% reduction in the government’s workforce.

Nobre dos Santos said: “We must show the government and the population that civil servants won’t be silenced by this nonsense. We are not cannon fodder.”

Public sector workers, he said, provide a vital public service to society and deserve respect from their employer.

“If the government has signed a contract with us, it has to be fulfilled. It cannot behave like some phoney boss,” he said.

Nobre dos Santos further stated that SINTAP and FESAP are firm in their position and demand that “everything is thoroughly evaluated”, stressing that the civil servants’ message to the government, “their employer”, is that they will not accept the situation.

He concluded: “We must take action to get things back on track. Protests are legitimate, but we have to make it clear that we are not fighting just for the sake of it, without a purpose; there will have to be a proposition, discussion, and negotiation. And we will only abandon negotiation if we’re pushed out the door”.

Nobre dos Santos believes the IMF report will exert pressure on the judges of the Constitutional Court into analysing the 2013 State Budget and suggested that it would be better to wait for the court’s decision before finalising action plans by the trade unions.