Teachers’ ‘win’ pay battle victory as minority parties back their cause

Key government ministers are locked in a meeting this morning deciding what to do over the ‘victory’ delivered to the nation’s teachers yesterday by minority parties in parliament (see update below).

Reports suggest that prime minister António Costa will be doing ‘everything he can to dramatise the situation’ which PS Socialists have consistently described as the opening of Pandora’s Box.

The issue centres on money – hundreds of millions of euros which the government says it simply doesn’t have in its budget to pay teachers their demands in full.

But Thursday saw minority parties – that’s the centre-right, teaming up uncharacteristically with the more radical left – voting at committee level to force the government to honour the teachers’ cause.

Instead of the two years, nine months and 18 days that the executive is prepared to compensate teachers for their almost decade-long situation of frozen pay-grades, the coalition of smaller parties approved a motion calling for teachers’ nine years, four months and two days to be fully-compensated and enshrined in law.

The only missing ingredient was ‘when’.

This is an election year and thus Thursday’s vote – that has still to go before parliament as a whole – was very much held with this in mind, casting minority parties as ‘champions of the teachers’ cause’, with the government as the villain.

But whether it will mean anything remains to be seen.

Says Lusa, PM Costa’s strategy today will be to blow it out of the water, ensuring it could never reach the Statute Books.

The government’s principal concern is that giving in to teachers’ demands will involve another €600-800 million in expenditure every year – a situation that goes against everything it has been trying to construct. It will also fly in the face of other public sector unions that are locked in pay disputes with the State.

Certain sources suggest Thursday’s vote could even be unconstitutional, thus the outcome of today’s meeting is keenly awaited.

Says Lusa, “all options are on the table”.


Speaking to the nation on Friday evening, PM Costa did pretty much what pundits thought: threatening to resign unless the vote is reversed at its final reading stage (likely to be on May 15).

As stony faced as he could muster, Costa pronounced that: “approval of the final and global vote will force the Government to present its resignation”.

Before his televised address, Costa had a meeting in Belém Palace with President Marcelo which lasted “around an hour”.

The President of Affections – nicknamed for the zeal with which he embraces fellow countrymen and women – has remained silent over the matter and is said to be adopting the ‘wait and see’ approach to what is being described as a gathering political crisis.

Though being made much of in the media, it is generally believed that the government will not reach the point of having to resign, and legislative elections scheduled for October 6 will go ahead as planned.

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