New public sector strikes threatened as workers reject ‘insulting’ pay increases

Strikes, strikes, strikes… November pitted by industrial action across multiple sectors

The ‘good news’ is that pharmacists have called off their strike ‘at the 11th hour’. It was due to have started today and run through to next Tuesday.

But the bad news is that, so far, no other sector seems ready to relent.

There is a patchwork of strikes limbering up through Portugal for November, while walk-outs affecting the Lisbon Metro have been going on all week and are set to continue into to the next.

Wednesday (November 3) sees the country’s nurses calling a two-day strike – from 8am to midnight the following day – affecting five shifts.

The strike “has a double responsibility” according to the syndicate: It is a “response to the valid calls of the profession, and above everything else aims to show the value of access to healthcare by the population”.

The syndicate highlights the hiring of professionals in a “precarious situation” (ie without long-term contracts), a lack of consideration given to nurses’ performance and calls for “the correction of points-related problems and equal conditions for nurses with individual employment contracts and contracts in public functions”.

Thursday November 5 (ie overlapping with nurses) sees teachers back on the streets – or more to the point, back waving their banners outside parliament. The demo called by teachers’ union Fenprof and the national federation of education (FNE) is scheduled to begin at 3pm.

Teachers’ main beef this time is against the pay increase envisaged in the failed budget. In other words, it could be that the strike is called off now that the budget has been rejected. But up till now, there has been no announcement.

The weekend over, the next strike due is one by workers of the Transtejo ferry boats – carrying people from the south side of the capital into Lisbon. This is due to continue all week (until November 12 at least, possibly until the Sunday).

This strike is over salaries and is planned to involve three-hour ‘paralysations’ during every shift, invariably corresponding to points at which people are most using the system.

The same week sees firefighters striking (on Thursday November 11 and Friday November 12) – again due to what the ANBP (national association of professional firefighters) and SNBP (national syndicate of firefighters) see as inadequate provision within the (now failed) State Budget.

Firefighters do not just want salary increases. They want €100-a-month ‘risk subsidies’ (equal to those given to security forces), a shorter working week, early-retirement on a par with security forces and immediate integration within the Special Force of Civil Protection.

Friday has also seen Frente Comum – the federation of syndicates of public sector workers – calling a national strike over what it rejects within the government’s vetoed plans for 2022 – and teachers, in spite of their industrial action on November 5, also saying they will be taking part.

The same day sees prison guards promising “a total strike”, having described the Justice Ministry of “inertia, apathy and lack of consideration” over problems dogging the prison system.

To be fair, the Justice ministry – and the Justice Minister – have been deeply criticised for lack of action for a very long time.

And just to round off this ‘black Friday’ of industrial strife, the syndical association of health administrators, is calling a strike, to start at 0.00 hours and run to midnight the following day of all workers “exercising administrative functions in healthcare establishments in protest to the degradation of working conditions”.

The next moment on this complicated calendar is due to come on Monday November 22 when the syndicate of doctors has called a three day strike to run until November 25 – again over the inadequacies perceived in the failed budget. Particular focus has been put on the eight million hours of overtime logged by doctors who “cannot take any more”.

Four days later (November 29) promises a 5-day strike by tax office workers (of the STI syndicate), demanding “reinforcement of means” and better access to promotion. “The time has come to say enough”, says the syndicate.

The upsets to citizens’ daily life will thus continue into December, at which point there are two Bank Holidays, falling midweek this year (December 1 and December 8), followed all too rapidly by Christmas.

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