Portugal

Implication des Syndicats dans le semestre européen
Trade Union Involvement in the EU Semester

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Catarina DANTAS MACHADO
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National Reports

A actual situação do mercado de trabalho deve-se ao efeito de sazonalidade criada por dois sectores e a uma diminuição da população activa jovem. A população activa dos 15 aos 34 anos registou uma diminuição de 112.5 mil pessoas, face ao ano anterior. Para haver uma inversão da tendência seria necessário que a economia estivesse a criar emprego, o que não se verifica. O desemprego de longa duração (64%) implica repensar urgentemente todas as medidas e instrumentos de política de emprego, de formação e de reinserção profissional. As reformas laborais da UE visam o enfraquecimento da legislação laboral, aumentam o trabalho precário e agravam as desigualdades salariais. Relativamente à consolidação orçamental a proposta da Comissão em transferir a carga fiscal sobre o trabalho para matérias colectáveis ligadas ao consumo, à propriedade, bem como à poluição deveria ser dirigida sobre outras formas de tributação, tais como impostos sobre o rendimento das empresas e a riqueza excessiva. O aumento de impostos sobre o consumo, irá incidir mais pesadamente sobre a classe trabalhadora, no activo e na reforma, que já vê o seu rendimento disponível ser reduzido através dos cortes drásticos nos salários e nas pensões, bem como na diminuição das transferências sociais quando se encontram na situação de desemprego. Não existem medidas que promovam o crescimento económico de forma a estimular a recuperação económica e as medidas que existem estão pouco coerentes com a realidade do país.

According to the CGTP-IN, the decentralization of collective bargaining is to deregulate, ie the replacement of collective agreements negotiated with the unions by individual employment contracts and not a supposed replacement of sector agreement with company-based agreements. The Portuguese business is almost entirely made up of small and medium enterprises (especially for small businesses) representing almost all. Companies with 250 and more employees represent less than 1% of the total.
The Annual Growth Survey for 2015 (AAC) goes in the direction of decentralization of collective bargaining when it states that real wage increases should be in line with productivity "including the company level."
2. As a result of the measures resulting from the application of austerity programs there is a nominal reduction of salaries in the public service, the loss of purchasing power in the private sector and the declining share of wages in income distribution. Low, wages clearly visible in the new admissions, triggered the return of mass emigration, particularly the younger population.
Wage loss was increased by a net basis with the increase in income tax, which heavily penalized workers for the advantage of others.
There is a risk of deflation. Inflation has negative or zero variations since February this year. In October, the average annual inflation was -0.2%.
AGS admits the evolution of "real wages in line with productivity" (not wages, which would presuppose nominal), adds that some countries have yet to address the trends of wage developments in the period before the crisis, with salaries growing up faster than productivity. In other words, it implies wages are alleged for being responsible for the crisis.
3. The AGS refers to Portugal as the example to be followed, as the labor market reforms made between 2011 and 2013, which clearly shows the policies that are recommended for the whole EU. The CGTP-IN notes, taking into account aspects of AGS more related to the labor market:
Employment protection rules must, according to AGS, stimulate admissions although ensuring a level of “modern” protections. Member States should remove obstacles to job creation, including the "necessary reform of resolution schemes of work conflicts." It is, in principle, of the conciliation proceedings, mediation and arbitration not covered the right to strike, but it is unclear why the European Commission meddles in matter that are not of its pertinence while they are competence of member states, trade unions and employers' organizations;
The emphasis on reducing segmentation in the labor market, usual formula with which attacks the labor legislation. The pretext is that less protective rules facilitate employment, so that employers would not have to precarious employment, which leads to the limit that everyone becomes precarious. The AGS gives the example of Portugal saying that "the protection of workers with permanent and fixed term contracts has been aligned."

The "alignment" here was the reduction of protections attached to permanent contracts. This shows the real meaning of segmentation of employment;
In Public Administration aims to "do more with less" (which in practice means lower the level of employment, as in Portugal) and the removal of regulatory barriers.

4. The CGTP-IN has already taken position on the Investment Plan for Europe; will do the same for the AGS and will monitor the Euroepan Semester.

FROM CGPT-IN

Labour income
The minimum wage, frozen since 2011 under the Memorandum of Understanding (MofU) has been the subject of a tripartite agreement in September 2014, up from € 485 to € 505 from 1 October 2014.
This was a significant increase in the impact it has had over 400,000 workers receiving the minimum wage, even considering that falls short of the purchasing power loss that occurred during the freezing period.
The same was possible only by strong union pressure, since there were reservations, particularly by employers, as to an increase that went beyond the 500 €.
Strong pressures want the minimum wage exclusively linked to the evolution of productivity, while future discussions around other factors are expected on legal and constitutionally enshrined issues, that give this topic a significant social role that cannot be challenged by issues related to competitiveness only.
The imposition of cuts in nominal wages in the public administration and the State Business Sector, the stagnation of collective bargaining and the pressure on lower wage levels, as labour earnings, are treated as economic adjustment variable. It led to a general decline in purchasing power of workers.

Collective Bargaining
Successive amendments to the labor law, proposed by the Government and imposed by the MofU, tried to value collective bargaining at company level, at the expense of sectoral bargaining, to block the extension of ordinances issued (with negative effects on number of covered workers and negotiating will of the employer side) and give bargaining power to non-union representative bodies, despite the constitutional provisions that recognise trade union as unique agents for collective bargaining.
Despite a large consensus aimed at not only ensuring that the decentralization of collective bargaining continue to depend on the willingness of signing unions and managed to change the extension of ordinances emissions criteria, allowing the issuance of new extensions (which started to happen), the role of Government in a real promotion of collective bargaining continues to fall short of what is desirable and necessary. The Government has still resigned from its competences in collective bargaining as an employer.
The most recent amendments to the Labour Code, in line with the MofU and recommendations of the European semester, focused on the reduction of ultractivity of terms of collective agreements and the possibility to suspend in whole or in part, the application of agreements at company level, where this is in difficult economic situation.
It has to be said that only tripartite negotiation impeded the extreme reduction of the period of ultractivity, achieving that such expiration terms are suspended when there is no effective negotiation, and that the suspension depends on agreement of signatory parties (trade unions and employers' associations ) and not on the will of other entities, as originally intended.
However, it is still significant that, due to legislative changes in recent years and the restrictions imposed on important instruments (such as the extension of ordinances), and yet there has been a recovery in 2013 in the number of published agreements, the relationship between sectoral agreements and company agreements has been reversed, clearly prevailing the latter, and that the number of workers covered by new conventions has dramatically decreased.

From UGT-P

Labor market
The relative change in political discourse, which now enhances economic growth and employment as priorities in the post-adjustment program, has not been accompanied by measures directed towards these objectives.
Although there is a decline in the unemployment rate, it remains very high and unsustainable levels (16.2% in Q3 2014). This decline finds a partial justification not in the creation of new jobs and absorption capacity of the unemployed by businesses, but rather in the decline of the active workforce, in the strengthening of active measures such as trainingships for young people and increasing emigration, and is still supported in precarious and seasonal jobs.
More, it appears that the weight of long-term unemployed still stands at 66.8%, well above pre-crisis values and a high number of unemployed who have lost the right to unemployment benefits (because the duration of the scheme and the amount decreased on request of the Troika), and that young people are particularly hard hit, constituting almost 20% of the unemployed population.
In addition there is a growing segmentation of the labor market, with the creation of precarious employment of around 25% of the new job and the new hire to be held with wage levels well below the 2010 figures (the fact that the policy of austerity, weakened collective bargaining and the still weak job creation are not unrelated). Portugal still has the 3rd highest precariousness index between Member States.
Two more facts must be remarked. The strong downward pressure protection in employment, which has resulted since 2011 in various legislative changes under the pretext of combating the segmentation of the labor market (reduction of unemployment benefits, more flexible regime of dismissals for objective reasons and falling values of compensations for termination of employment contract, just less burdensome thanks to the union intervention) and the strong employer pressure which currently forced a relaxed rules for fixed-term contracts, particularly for the shorter-term contracts.

Social dialogue and involvement in the European Semester
Although specific consensus on certain issues, the emptying of the social dialogue is a reality with an agenda imposed by the government and focused on discussion of issues accessories and is being more a place of mere hearing of partners than an area of development and construction commitments.
With specific regard to the monitoring of the European Semester, the lack of involvement of social partners could partly be understood by Portugal exemption from that process, but this is no longer well founded at the time when the country came out of the adjustment program.

From UGT-P

Os últimos anos em Portugal são caracterizados por uma mudança abrupta do paradigma da negociação coletiva. A Negociação Colectiva encontrou nos últimos quatro anos as maiores dificuldades de sempre. Todas as medidas tomadas nos últimos anos visaram desregulamentação da negociação coletiva, o esvaziamento das capacidades dos parceiros sociais, e colocaram em causa o diálogo social.
Assistimos a alterações que visaram sobretudo privilegiar a negociação ao nível da empresa em detrimento da sectorial e, por vezes, até reduzir o papel dos sindicatos na negociação, com tentativas de introduzir outras estruturas de representação nos processos. Tal teve resultados negativos, revelando uma profunda ignorância/descaso relativamente ao sistema de relações de trabalho português e sobre a estrutura do nosso tecido empresarial.
O objectivo foi claro e é amplamente saudado, de forma directa ou indirecta, nos documentos comunitários, os quais salientam sempre a redução dos custos salariais como um aspecto positivo que contribuiu para um aumento de competitividade da economia, esquecendo os impactos sociais e laborais extremamente penosos.
Não obstante o diagnóstico realizado pela Comissão no que respeita nomeadamente às dinâmicas do mercado de trabalho não poder deixar de ser considerado como factualmente objectivo e correcto, não deixa porém de existir uma permanente incongruência com as recomendações e análises que são efectuadas sobre esses mesmos elementos.
Com efeito, não nos parece possível salientar como problemática o agravamento de situações de pobreza e desigualdade e saudar os ajustamentos (negativos) da protecção social.
Tal é particularmente gravoso no caso do desemprego, em que, sendo manifestada uma preocupação com a tendencial estabilização de uma elevada taxa de desemprego de longa duração, se tenha tido como resposta a redução da protecção no desemprego e nunca se manifestando qualquer intenção de inverter as medidas assumidas.
Por outro lado, é inaceitável afirmar, como é feito, que os problemas do desemprego encontram a sua causa nas políticas do mercado de trabalho e na negociação colectiva, o que nos parece indiciar que as soluções do passado se manterão ou se aprofundarão.
A necessidade de crescimento, investimento são totalmente ignoradas no documento, quando são há muito defendidas como condições essenciais para inverter a actual situação do emprego em Portugal.
Relativamente às alterações introduzidas ao Código do Trabalho e abordadas no relatório, alguns comentários devem ser realizados.
Quanto à possibilidade de suspensão da vigência das convenções coletivas, a Comissão não deixa de criticar o facto de não se ter ido, também aqui, além das estruturas signatárias dos acordos, procurando também aqui deixar uma nota “anti-sindical” e quase lamentando as restrições constitucionais existentes.
No que respeita à redução dos prazos de caducidade e sobrevigência, a UGT considera que se trata de uma alteração que pode colocar uma pressão acrescida para negociar apenas sobre os sindicatos, potenciando o perigo de novos e indesejáveis vazios negociais, mas que pode porém gerar um novo ímpeto negocial, sobretudo se considerarmos que os prazos se suspendem quando não exista negociação efectiva por períodos superiores a 30 dias.
No entanto, e não obstante dever ser objecto de avaliação futura em sede de concertação social, a UGT deve desde já afirmar que uma maior redução dos referidos prazos se revelará excessiva e perigosa.
Relativamente aos recentes resultados da negociação coletiva, devem-se em grande parte ao alargamento dos critérios para emissão das portarias de extensão. A Resolução anterior estipulava critérios demasiado restritivos que foram, quase exclusivamente, os únicos responsáveis pela alteração do paradigma existente e por um bloqueio de inúmeros processos negociais.
Assim, quando a Comissão afirma que “A consequente generalização potencial das extensões das convenções coletivas poderá constituir um obstáculo a um ajustamento eficiente dos salários a nível das empresas”, tal não pode deixar de ser questionado.
Desde logo, porque a alteração dos critérios de emissão das portarias de extensão se tem constituído como o quase exclusivo factor de alguma dinamização recente da negociação colectiva. Por outro lado, a preocupação da Comissão é sempre a mesma e sempre clara: continuar o ajustamento por via dos salários.
É necessário ter em conta que é esta chamada “generalização” que permite uma competição justa entre empresas, e não uma competição baseada na competitividade salarial, particularmente tendenciosa para baixo.
Diga-se que quer os parceiros sindicais quer os patronais sempre tiveram e continuam a ter reservas quanto a restrições à possibilidade de emitir portarias de extensão que excedam os critérios fixados no Código do Trabalho.

Não deixa ainda de ser significativo que a Comissão, apesar de forma mais subtil que no passado, continue a manifestar os seus receios quanto à ligeira subida do salário mínimo, em Outubro de 2014, depois de 4 anos de congelamento, numa verdadeira senda obsessiva quanto aos custos salariais.
Tal é tão mais curioso se considerarmos que a própria Comissão não deixa de chamar à atenção de que a proporção de trabalhadores a receber o salário mínimo é extremamente elevada em Portugal, o que também contribui para que o nível de pobreza continue a aumentar entre os trabalhadores. Também aqui a Comissão revela as suas inconsistências.
Em conclusão, a negociação colectiva em Portugal, sobreviveu por pouco aos ataques governamentais que procuraram erodir a negociação, desmantelar o diálogo social e esvaziar as capacidades dos parceiros sociais. A autonomia dos parceiros sociais foi minada por legislação imperativa e as suas consequências foram devastadoras.
A UGT espera ligeiras melhorias para 2015 relativamente ao número de convenções publicadas e ao número de trabalhadores abrangidos, no entanto, prevemos que o nível salarial vai manter-se numa tendência de aumentos reais baixos e que estes dificilmente vão acompanhar a produtividade prevista de 1,5% PIB (Banco de Portugal e Governo).
Ao mesmo tempo continuam as privatizações e, apesar do fim do programa de assistência financeira, o Governo continua na senda da austeridade, dificultando a negociação coletiva. O documento, nesta matéria, insiste no ajuste salarial ao nível das empresas, mas sem a garantia de mínimos salariais e de condições de trabalho que assegurem uma competitividade justa entre as mesmas, o que só seria viável com uma negociação setorial.

The last few years in Portugal are characterized by an abrupt change of the paradigm of collective bargaining. The Collective Bargaining has found in the last four years the greatest difficulties ever. All measures taken in recent years aimed at the deregulation of collective bargaining, emptying the capacity of social partners, and putting into question the social dialogue.

We witnessed the changes that were especially aimed at favouring the negotiation at the enterprise level at the expense of sector and sometimes even at reducing the role of unions in negotiations with attempts to introduce other representative bodies in the processes. This had negative results, revealing a profound ignorance / negligence on the Portuguese labour relations system and the structure of our businesses.

The objective was clear and is widely welcomed, directly or indirectly, in EU documents, which always emphasize the reduction in labour costs as a positive factor that contributed to an increase of competitiveness of the economy, forgetting the social and employment impacts extremely painful.

Despite the fact that diagnosis made by the Commission - in particular on the labour market dynamics - can only be regarded as objective and factually correct, there is a permanent incongruity with the recommendations and analysis that are performed on those elements. It indeed does not seem possible to point out how problematic the worsening of poverty and inequality and to greet the (negative) adjustments of social protection.

This is particularly burdensome in the case of unemployment which - nevertheless the concern about the stabilization trend of a high long-term unemployment rate were expressed - represents an effect of the reduction of unemployment protection and any intention to reverse the measures taken have never been expressed.

On the other hand, it is unacceptable to say, as it is done, the unemployment problems are the cause in labour market policies and collective bargaining, which seems to indicate that past solutions will remain or will be deepened.

The need for growth and investments are totally ignored in the document, despite of being advocated for long time as an essential conditions to reverse the current employment situation in Portugal.

On the amendments to the Labour Code and raised in the report, some comments should be made.

For what regards the possibility of suspending the validity of collective agreements, the Commission does not fail to criticize the failure in going beyond the signatory structures of the agreements (taking advantage of the chance also for leaving an "anti-union" note about it) and almost regretting the existing constitutional restrictions.
As regards the reduction of limitation and on effective terms, the UGT thinks this is a change that can put increased pressure to negotiate just about the unions, enhancing the danger of new and undesirable empty negotiations. But it can generate a new negotiating momentum, especially given that the deadlines are suspended when there is no effective negotiation for longer than 30 days. However, despite it should be subject to further evaluation in the social dialogue, UGT must assert that a greater reduction of these deadlines will prove excessive and dangerous.

Recent results of collective bargaining are due largely to the enlargement of the criteria for issuing the extension of ordinances. The previous resolution stipulated on excessively restrictive criteria that were almost the only exclusive responsible for the modification of the existing paradigm and blocking of numerous business processes.

So, when the Commission states that "The consequent potential generalization of the extensions of collective agreements could be an obstacle to an efficient adjustment of wages at company level", this means that it can only be questioned. First of all, because the change of emission criteria for extension of ordinances were the almost exclusive factor in some recent promotion of collective bargaining. Furthermore, the Commission's concern is always the same and always clear: keep on adjusting wages.

It is necessary to take into account that the so-called "generalization" that allows a fair competition between companies, has not to be read as a competition based on wage competitiveness, but based on downgrading wages.

The employers have never wanted and continue not to want restrictions on the possibility of issuing the extension of ordinances that exceed the criteria laid down in the Labour Code.

It is even more significant that the Commission, although less strongly than in the past, keeps on expressing its concern about the slight increase of the minimum wage in October 2014, after four years of freezing, a true obsessive path as the wage costs.

All this is very curious considering that the Commission itself does not fail to call the attention upon the fact that the number of workers receiving the minimum wage is extremely high in Portugal, which also contributes to the continuous increase of poverty level among workers. Once again, the Commission reveals its inconsistencies.

In conclusion, collective bargaining in Portugal, barely survived the government attacks that sought to erode the negotiation, dismantle social dialogue and empty the capacities of social partners. The autonomy of the social partners was undermined by mandatory legislation and its consequences were devastating.

UGT expects slight improvements for 2015 on the number of published conventions and the number of covered workers. However, we anticipate that the wage level will remain stable on a trend of lower real increases and it is unlikely to follow the expected productivity of 1, 5% GDP (Bank of Portugal and the Government).

At the same time, the privatizations keep on rolling and despite of the end of the financial assistance program, the Government continues to follow the austerity path, making it more difficult for the collective bargaining. The document, in this respect, insists on wage setting at company level, but without the minimum wage guarantee and working conditions ensuring fair competition between them, which would only be feasible with a trade negotiation.

The recommendations of the European Commission on wages resume, in general terms, the positions previously taken, particularly in the context of the Economic and Financial Adjustment Program of the Troika, which can be summed up as a defense of a continuous weakening of wages, including the minimum wage.
Regarding the minimum wage a tripartite agreement was reached in September 2014 (Government and social partners), determining an increase of € 485 to € 505 from 1 October 2014. It should be recalled that the minimum wage stood frozen since January 2011, following the dictates of the Troika and even disrespecting an earlier tripartite agreement. This increase proved to have had a major impact for the more than 400,000 workers receiving the minimum wage, but also had an impact, albeit more marginal, on domestic consumption.
The agreement reached was immediately criticized by some members of the European Commission, which considered that such increase was premature and could create constraints to job creation, especially for low-skilled and young workers, and to economic recovery itself. This idea is in no way supported by the statistics on growth and employment. More, this position also reveals a disregard for the role of social partners and national social dialogue coming from the European Commission, which by no means should be deemed as acceptable.
It is also significant that the European Commission continues to support its positions regarding the evolution of the minimum wage, at least with respect to some countries, on the assumption, contradicted by the experience and empirical analysis on many countries, that the increase of minimum wages has negative impacts in terms of job creation and competitiveness of the country, namely ignoring that the majority of employees receiving this salary are outside of tradable goods and services sector.
On the other hand, focusing the increase of the minimum wage around the evolution of productivity - implicit position in the Commission's recommendations - is to ignore other factors, some legally and constitutionally enshrined in Portugal, as the significant social role this aggregate must pay. This role is actually supported by the principles and values defended by other institutions, such as ILO. In that sense, the social role of minimum wages cannot be compromised by issues related to competitiveness.
As for the general recommendation on wages, continue to defend an alignment of wages with productivity is to insist on further fragmentation and wage differentiation (among regions, sectors and companies), and therefore a new widening of gaps and inequalities, but it also a disguised way to continue defending the decentralization of collective bargaining, with the consequent risks of leaving many workers outside a desirable protection.
But it is also to disregard the very negative impacts on the purchasing power and welfare of families that intense nominal wage cuts, especially in public administration and the State Business Sector, as well as reduced wage growth in the private. The insistence on the so called alignment would be to despise the special adjustment justifiable in such situations.
Productivity in Portugal, as in many other countries, has grown well above real wages, and that is in no way taken into account on the recommendations by the European Commission (now as in the past).
When the weak domestic demand of families is pointed by companies as one of the main constraints to new investments, improving wages would also be an important factor to promote economic recovery and boosting job creation.
We reject that labor incomes continue to be used and seen as the main economic adjustment variable and as the sole national and international competitiveness factor and that recommendations suffer no significant change year after year, even in a context of a somehow changing political speech by some high representatives of the European institutions.