Rail services face disruption due to strike by command centre staff

Significant nationwide disruption expected

Staff at Infraestruturas de Portugal (IP) are holding the first of two strikes today, expected to cause “significant disruption” to train traffic nationwide, in the words of the country’s rail operator, CP – Comboios de Portugal.

The strike, which covers IP’s operation, command, control, information, traffic management and railway maintenance workers, is related to working conditions and salaries, Adriano Filipe, leader of Aprofer – the trade union association for railway command and control professionals – tells Lusa.

“The reasons for this strike are the same” as the strike that was called for September 2022, he told Lusa, remarking that IP had committed to negotiating an agreement, without following through

“The agreement was to close negotiations and commit to social peace by December 31, 2023, but given IP’s failure to comply, we decided to call a strike for the beginning of January.

“It will be a strike that will continue until there is an agreement or a change,” he added.

The overriding issue is that workers involved in operational command centres (which control all rail operations throughout the country) want more recognition and job security.

“For 17 years, new jobs have been in need of standardisation and, therefore, we work along the lines of the old CP,” he said, pointing out that the work is “in a highly technological centre, which handles all the rail traffic and maintenance for the whole country.

“What we’re asking for is a difference in pay compared to what is paid at the stations,” he said, emphasising that the 300 or so workers at operational command centres have “the same pay scale as station workers”, when the “worker at a station has a very local responsibility. We have a national responsibility,” requiring a “high degree of concentration (…)  with staff having to manage manoeuvres, traffic, accidents, breakdowns, among other tasks.

The strike could also affect train services on Wednesday and Friday, CP has said in a statement published on its website.

On the days of the strike, minimum services are guaranteed, with the Alfa Pendular and Intercidades, Regional, InterRegional and International trains, Porto Urban Trains, Coimbra Urban Trains and Lisbon Urban Trains expected to run.

All the information on the guaranteed minimum train services can be consulted on the CP website.

CP also says that for customers who have already bought tickets to travel on the Alfa Pendular, Intercidades, International, InterRegional and Regional services, the railway company will refund the full price of the ticket or exchange it free of charge for another train in the same category and class.

Refunds or exchanges can be made on the myCP platform in the “Your tickets” area (for tickets purchased online and on the CP app) up to 15 minutes before the train departs from the customer’s station of origin, or at any ticket office.

After this deadline, and up to 10 days after the end of the strike, the refund can be requested by filling in the online contact form in the “Refund for delay or cancellation” area, including a scan of the original ticket, CP advises.