Statement by João Frazão, Member of the Political Commission of PCP’s Central Committee

«Fight the epidemic outbreak, fight the law of the jungle, defend and protect workers' rights»

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The current epidemic outbreak has to be tackled, prevented and fought with determination, mobilizing the means and resources essential to defend health and life. But it cannot be used and instrumentalized, taking advantage of legitimate concerns, to serve as a pretext for the worsening of exploitation and for an attack on workers' rights.

The last few days have given a dangerous signal as to how far employers are willing to trample on workers' rights. Foreboding a path that, if not stopped, will launch labour relations into a true “law of the jungle”, we have witnessed a proliferation of trampling of rights and arbitrariness. The savage redundancies of hundreds of workers, particularly of those with precarious links, namely in Temporary Work Agencies and workers on trial periods; placing workers on forced vacations; the unilateral change in schedules; cuts in income through lay-off and also by cutting bonuses and subsidies, including the meal allowance, namely to those who are placed in teleworking; the refusal to exercise parental rights; these are examples that illustrate the ongoing offensive against workers, their wages, their rights and their jobs.

An offensive enforced by blackmail, threats and coercion on workers, which also infringes the field of freedom of trade union action.

Violations that add to countless situations of non-compliance with the rules of hygiene, health and safety at work, which, at this stage, all the more so, must be strictly respected.

Such situations, in addition to what they reveal about the nature of capitalism as a system of exploitation and accumulation of wealth, expose, with particular harshness, the consequences of precarious work in the lives of workers, firstly of the young, or the results, which are in sight, of the grievous norms of labour legislation.

As the PCP has repeatedly mentioned, although it is necessary to fight and liquidate the virus, it is not acceptable to use the virus to liquidate rights.

For the PCP, the defence of wages and rights is socially fair and necessary for workers, especially at a time when faced with new demands and concerns, as well as being the best guarantee of curbing the current negative impacts and ensuring the recovery of economic activity when this storm is over.

In a scenario marked by a significant drop in economic activity, the cut in wages and income will add, with the loss of purchasing power, a retraction of the internal market that will lead to a recessive trend that needs to be prevented. What is needed is to defend and valorise the rights and wages of workers and not, in an attempt to liquidate them, favour recessive conditions that will primarily fall on the people and the country.

The PCP draws attention to the need to ensure the maintenance of these rights and income, namely with:

- The guarantee of the defence of jobs through the prohibition of dismissals, while the epidemic lasts, of workers with permanent employment or workers with precarious employment, among whom are false independent workers.

- The guarantee of an immediate response to ensure full payment of wages to workers in companies whose activity is suspended by creating specific mechanisms, including a Fund for that purpose, with financial means to be made available by the State Budget. Exceptional situations call for exceptional measures. It cannot be Social Security funds to respond to this emergency. Social Security must be called upon to assume its own responsibilities, and must be compensated for the means meanwhile added.

- The guarantee of compliance with all the rules of hygiene, health and safety at work and, from the outset, the directives issued by the General Directorate of Health. Particular attention should be given to health professionals, and all workers in public functions focused on fighting the virus.

- The guarantee, for all workers of 100% pay, including the meal allowance, either in case of prophylactic isolation, or to accompany dependent minors or elderly, or due to changes in the situation of each person, due to a decision by the companies or the competent authorities.

- The guarantee of action by the Authority for Working Conditions (ACT) with a special urgency programme regarding complaints of violation of workers' rights, namely illegality of dismissals, which requires providing the ACT with more human and technical resources.

- The definition of a legal framework that makes illegal and revocable, at any time, all violations of labour legislation and collective bargaining that are being committed.

- The immediate application of the unhealthy, hardship and risk allowance to all workers in the various private sectors and in Public Administration who carry out risky functions, a requirement that has long been posed and which the current situation makes urgent.

- The payment of the sickness allowance and assistance to children and grandchildren, extending it to 16 years, with 100% of the reference salary and the consideration of the status of occupational disease for health professionals infected with the Covid-19 virus, as well as others in a similar situation.

- The adoption, as a special measure, of an extra allowance for workers who, in the current situation, must perform their duties in a situation of particular exposure.

- The restoration of overtime pay amounts and the elimination of existing restrictions in public services on the use of overtime work, which is essential to the necessary response.

- The valorisation of work and workers with a general increase in wages and the valorisation of careers and professions, as well as the revocation of the grievous norms of the labour legislation and in particular the expiry of collective bargaining and the replacement of the principle of more favourable treatment.

At a time when, in addition to prevention to deter the spread of the virus and the treatment of those in need, it is necessary to ensure the maintenance of economic activities, firstly ensuring to the population essential services and goods - food, medicines, hygiene products, among others - the PCP calls for no one to be silent in the face of any attacks and injustices and reaffirms to the workers its firm intention and unwavering commitment to act in defence of their interests and rights

The virus is bad enough. We fight and will fight the law of the jungle in labour relations. Rights are not quarantined, suspended or liquidated. This is the time to defend them! This is the time to pave the way for the valorisation of work and workers, for a developed and sovereign Portugal that we will build.

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  • Economia e Aparelho Produtivo
  • Saúde
  • Trabalhadores
  • Central