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Portugal, unemployment

A salute to Portugal’s striking workers

The Troika did not come to pay salaries, it came to rescue banks, every penny taken from workers will profit the financial markets. So here’s to  all the workers who have been on strike. They are the voice of the country that is not enslaved.

The last few weeks have been marked by a series of struggles that demonstrate the revolt against the government’s brutality. A government that has declared war on people’s rights, and that has sworn to settle accounts with the workers and their collective achievements.

The huge tax increase is an assault that cuts the income for thousands of families, further pushing down wages that are already among the lowest in Europe, where labour costs approach those of Romania.

In a country where more than 155,000* people earn less than 310 euros per month, in a country where a job is no longer protection against poverty, the government focuses its policies around an attack on wages.

The Bank of Portugal has shown that those who work continue to pay a large bill for the crisis. It confirmed what everyone already knew: that the recession will be deeper and unemployment higher. Over 88,000 jobs will be destroyed in 2013.

The budget forecasts for 2013 have feet of clay, and as they crumble they will further destroy the country. No growth condemns the country to bankruptcy. There is no economic recovery in our country without tackling the problem of unemployment. And making it cheaper to fire workers won’t cut the dole queues.

A government that does not recognize collective rights as the strength of this country, that is not proud of the achievements of workers, is a government that does not deserve its people.

They told us that the Troika was here to save the country, to protect wages and pensions and to maintain rights. But that’s exactly what we’re cutting. We all now see the true goal: cut wages, take from those who have the least, sack thousands, spread fear.

The fear of unemployment, taxes, poverty, the future, a blackmail that it must be accepted or we will be left with nothing. The economy of fear is being used by the government to continue to apply its blind cuts and lower the incomes of working people.

The Troika came, not to pay salaries, but to save the banks and to ensure that every penny taken from workers will profit financial markets.

It is part of its programme to force through a cut in labour costs, always sacrificing wages and rights in the name of competitiveness that never arrives.

In this reckoning against workers, not even the right to rest is safe from the government offensive. The right to rest and eight hours of work were an achievement for civilization. They are the greatest conquest of workers: the right to have life outside of work, to be whole men and women, not machines.

The government is taking its lead from employers and business executives seeking to break collective bargaining agreements and to subvert the concept of safeguarding the weaker party in an employment relationship.

They have cut overtime pay and additional and compensatory rest, ignoring the rights of collective bargaining.

The Left Bloc condemns these attempts to destroy collective bargaining rights.

The Inspector General José Luis Forte, in an opinion requested by the CGTP trade union confederation, said that “Nothing seems to prevent companies from paying increases greater than the those currently anticipated under the code” and adds “they must understand these values as minima” . But the bosses want the minimum to be the maximum, trampling the achievements of workers.

That’s why all workers’ struggles today are very important.

So greetings to all the workers who have been on strike, the railway sector, in passenger road transport, on the waterways, and the Lisbon underground: the Soflusa e Transtejo [ferry workers], the employees of [state-owned railways] CP and the CP-Load Refer, [railway maintenance company] Empresa de Manutenção de Equipamento Ferroviário and the Lisbon Metro, [the miners of] Panasqueira and Somincor, fighting to defend collective bargaining, for the right to fair payment for overtime work on holiday days, and rest breaks.

In the struggles of the workers of Europac Kraft Viana (Viana do Castelo), Europac Packaging (Vila do Conde, Leiria and Lisbon) who managed to maintain rights guaranteed by collective bargaining. At Sonae-Logistics, which in December forced the company to pay 150%, when it wanted to pay 50%.

There will also be struggles in companies with profits as the Edp, Ren, Galp, Águas de Portugal, Valorsul, Epal and Parmalat to force these companies to pay for holidays, according to their collective agreements.

The workers’ struggles represent the voice of the country that in not enslaved, the country that refuses to submit their lives to the payment of interest on this debt that stifles the economy.

These are struggles for the rights of all, and only struggles like these can give us a prospective of growth, against recession and poverty. The fight for a country that is not hostage to this parliamentary majority, nor this government nor the Troika that oppresses us. A country that knows that this government is part of the problem, and must step down in order for us to find a way out.

The Left Bloc will continue to contest this Labour Code, and rejects any idea that it is inevitable.

Therefore, we will present legislative initiatives that call for a civilized, more favourable treatment, for employees, and proposals that provide for fair compensation for any work exceeding 40 hours weekly.

On behalf of workers’ rights. On behalf of the right to a living wage. In the name of working conditions that treat workers like people, not machines.

 Political Declaration of the Parliamentary Group of the Left Bloc January 16, 2013

Translation by Revolting Europe

* out of a population of 10.6 million

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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