Tax employees reject 40-hour work week

A court order to prevent an increase in weekly working hours from 35 to 40 for workers in the taxation and customs sector, which had been presented by their trade union, was approved this week by Lisbon’s Administrative Court.

The court’s verdict suspends the increase in weekly working hours for nearly 7,000 workers.

The government, however, has confirmed that it is willing to use the legal mechanisms at its disposal to contest the decision. If the Ministry of Finance chooses to appeal as a matter of public interest, the court order will become inactive and the workers will have to work the 40-hour week.

The Sindicato de Trabalhadores dos Impostos launched the injunction on September 3, describing the new law as “unconstitutional”.

Besides the union, the new 40-hour work week was also rejected by opposition parties PS, CDU and BE, which voted against the law when it was proposed in Parliament and repeatedly demanded audits regarding the constitutional validity of the measures.

However, workers in hospitals, prisons and activities related to security services are some of the sectors that are not exempt and will be adding an extra five hours of work to their weekly schedule.

Public sector employees are due to begin their 40 hour work week on Saturday, September 28.

The Portuguese Nurses Union met last week with the Ministry of Health to attempt to clarify if their sector could be classified as an exception to the 40-hour law. The result, however, was not favourable for the union, which now threatens to take the case to court, according to a statement on its Facebook page.

Teachers have also been among the most avid contesters of the increase in working hours.

Mário Nogueira, the head of teachers union Fenprof, said in December last year: “Messing around with teachers’ work hours is not only an act of violence but is also unthinkable.”

However, the Minister of Education Nuno Crato said in June that the changes would hardly be noticeable and that teachers practically already worked 40 hours.

But teachers contest that they in fact work more than 40 hours per week considering the workload they take home and excessive bureaucracy in the sector.