Thousands take to streets to demonstrate on International Workers Day

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Portuguese towns and cities today to “fight for workers’ rights”.

There have been events in Coimbra, Porto, Lisbon and beyond.

The theme too could not be more apt as the virus situation in Portugal has shone a sharp spotlight on the myriad situations of modern-day slavery in agricultural explorations in the Alentejo (click here).

The plight of immigrant workers packed like sardines into miserable ‘accommodation’ has been glossed over for many years (click here). But today saw labour minister Ana Mendes Godinho ‘defend’ a “collective no-holds-barred fight against parallel worlds” that are promoting “new forms of slavery in the workplace”.

She told an online meeting in commemoration of International Workers Day that the way to stop modern-day slave bosses was through “strong syndicates and strong social dialogue”.

If Covid has done anything positive this year, it is in the way the country at last seems to be addressing the abysmal way immigrants in the southern Alentejo are being exploited.

Said Ms Godinho it’s “time to accelerate structural changes to guarantee inclusive rights of social protection and valorisation of workers”.

The “great collective challenge” is “in creating conditions for labour of the future to be decent for all”, she said.

At the same time, the government has announced that all immigrants with processes opened with SEF (borders and foreigners agency) by April 2021 will be recognised as permanent residents, eligible to claim child benefit for any children they have with them.

This is a move that mirrors decisions made in March last year – ensuring immigrants ‘were not left behind’ (click here).

The intention is that immigrants in the process of becoming legalised can obtained a health service number, access to the health service, access to social support, can enter a rental/ work contract and open a bank account.

All they need is any form of documentation showing they either have a booking with SEF or proof of having requested the renewal of residency authorisation.

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