Unions claim holidays

Angry union leaders are insisting that Portuguese workers should be entitled to 25 days holiday this year. Their assertion comes in the face of different interpretations of the government’s new labour laws. The new code stipulates that workers will be entitled to 25 days paid leave every year, but a fierce argument is raging about when the new code comes into effect.

The CGTP (The Confederation of General Workers’ Union) and the UGT (the General Workers’ Union) maintain that, as the new code was introduced on December 1 last year, workers have the right to 25 days annual holiday this year.

The head of the UGT, Barbosa de Oliveira, maintains that “the right is acquired as soon as the legislation comes into force”.However, he acknowledges that the law is subject to various interpretations and makes clear that, in his opinion, the only way to resolve the disagreement could be via the courts. Given the various interpretations of the law, the government has requested the opinion of the General Works Commission (IGT), which has declared that the right to 25 days holiday will only be applicable in 2005.

But Joaquim Dionísio, a specialist in worker rights employed by the Lisbon offices of the CGTP, says any worker entering service in December acquires automatic holiday entitlement for the following year. Speaking to The Resident, he described the IGT ruling as “a suit made to measure for the government”. And he made clear that the CGTP would take their case to a higher court if required. “The new labour code explicitly states that all workers will be entitled to 25 days paid leave. The new code was put into effect in December 2003. The terms for deciding annual paid leave had to be decided before January 2004.” Barbosa de Oliveira, from the UGT, also criticised the IGT decision, saying: “The government and the IGT are the same thing; there is no distinction.” Despite his anger, Dionísio is still hoping for a speedy settlement to the disagreement. “If no agreement is reached, then we will have to take our case to a higher court,” he told The Resident. “But it’s still early days. Many employers are already accepting the new situation and accepting the word and spirit of the new clause. So, hopefully, it will become clear to the IGT that their decision is without basis.”