By ANA TAVARES [email protected]
In the first quarter of 2012, Portugal had 2,669 fewer public sector workers than it had at the end of last year, according to recent data released by the Ministry of Finance.
Although the reduction is largely due to central administration cutbacks to help the government meet its budgetary goals, there are still 608,746 public workers, a number that represents 11.1% of the global active Portuguese population and 12.9% of the overall employed population, according to the Statistical Synthesis of Public Employment released last week by the Ministry of Finance.
The release of the quarterly publication, which is part of the Memorandum of Understanding with troika (EC-ECB-IMF) and aims to assess if the Portuguese Government is cutting back on staff at the expected rate, also showed that public servants earn on average €1,600 a month, over three times the national minimum wage.
The figure analysed related to the month of January and included not only the basic pay but also bonuses, representing an increase of €6.70 (0.5%) compared to October 2011.
With the goal of reducing the number of public servants in central administration by 2% until 2014, the government’s staff cutbacks so far represent -0.6%.
Reducing the number of central administration workers, who represent 75% of all public servants, could save the Government considerable amounts of money, as these earn some of the highest salaries – around €1,745 a month.
On the best paid list are government staff in the archipelagos of Azores (€1,550) and Madeira (€1,448), whose employee numbers have decreased by 1.2% and 0.3%, respectively.
According to the publication, staff working in local government are the worst paid, earning on average €1,070 a month, while among the several ministries, Foreign Affairs employees boast the highest incomes, taking home a monthly average of €3,105.
The publication also reveals that the government is not succeeding in its efforts to cut back on local government: despite these workers earning a lower wage and the reduction of staff in the Azores and Madeira, the total number of local government workers has actually increased by 0.1%.
Also clear is the disparity between salaries depending on the position of the worker: while a diplomat could earn €8,145 a month including bonuses in January (less 5.8% compared to October 2011), a police officer would rack up around €1,363 (less 0.4% than in October 2011). Among the worst paid are operations assistants, earning €759.30 a month (an increase of 0.1% compared to October last year).
The number of surplus staff, who are placed on the “special mobility board”, decreased to 1,153 employees – less 25 than in December 2011 – with most surplus workers coming from the Ministry of Agriculture (622 workers).
The Statistical Synthesis of Public Employment was released the day before the Secretary of State for Public Administration, Hélder Rosalino, announced his intention to drop the “general mobility plan” for public workers in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto.
According to the plan, public servants could be transferred to any council within the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto, even if they had to undertake a daily commute of over 60 kilometres.
After hearing the arguments of workers’ union UGT (União Geral de Trabalhadores), Hélder Rosalino decided, in the final proposal sent to the unions, that the general mobility plan would only apply to services located up to 60km from the workers’ residences.
In addition, the Government will pay part of the additional travel expenses.