Sócrates in Faro for Socialist Party dinner  .jpg

Sócrates in Faro for Socialist Party dinner  

By CAROLINE CUNHA

[email protected]

PRIME MINISTER, José Sócrates, was in Faro last Wednesday evening for a Socialist Party dinner held downtown at the Hotel Eva.

The purpose of his visit was to meet with party members to reaffirm the policies of his party’s electoral programme and his wish to take it to its full conclusion.

Despite the bad weather, Sócrates was confronted on his arrival by a group of around 20 angry protesters, demonstrating about the planned reforms relating to public sector workers, particularly those concerning teachers. Also waiting to greet him on arrival, presenting rather more friendly faces, were the Civil Governor of the Faro District, António Pina and the leader of the Socialist Party in the Algarve, Miguel Freitas.

Currently, in Portugal, teachers are promoted and receive salary increases based on their length of service. The reforms proposed by the government mean that teacher’s careers will, in the future, be effectively controlled by performance assessments.

Meanwhile, public service workers, such as staff working at Segurança Social (Social Security), have been told that they will receive a 1.5 per cent pay increase next year, which is likely to be below the rate of inflation, some job cuts will also be made. The protesters in Faro were waving banners stating “Um olhar cego sobre realidade”, blind to reality, and were loudly chanting rhyming insults.

During his speech at the dinner, Sócrates spoke about increased employment, putting public accounts in order and the country’s economic growth in 2006. He also talked about the introduction of tollbooths on three highways in the Greater Porto area and guaranteed that the decision was fair and that it did not break the Socialist Party’s electoral promises.

The Algarvean representatives of the Socialist Party took the opportunity to remind their leader that it is imperative that the government keeps its electoral promises to the Algarve, namely the construction of the Hospital Central at Parque das Cidades, the Odelouca reservoir and that the A22 would remain toll-free as no viable alternative exists.

In his speech, Sócrates hit back at Social Democrat leader, Marques Mendes’ comments earlier in the day about the government’s proposals for the public sector, describing them as “crocodile tears”. Mendes had earlier commented that the government must stimulate the public sector, not make it hostile.