Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General-Secretary, Public Session «Value work and workers - General increase of salaries and of the Minimum National Wage»

Value work and workers - General increase of salaries and of the Minimum National Wage

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The workers affected by the right-wing policy were the main target of the offensive of the SGPs and the Pact of Aggression, and of the brutal process of worsening of exploitation and impoverishment applied by the PSD/CDS Government.

The workers' struggle and the action of the PCP have interrupted this forced march and have achieved results. We live in a time marked by advances in the defence, restoration and achievement of rights and also marked by contradictions and limitations, and by an offensive by employers always aiming at the exploitation and regression of workers' rights.

We would like to mention some advances achieved in the last two years, namely the abolition of the surcharge on the Income Tax, the full replacement of wages, the 35 hour week, the holidays that had been withdrawn, the cut in the Municipal Real Estate Tax (IMI), the reinstatement of collective bargaining and pension allowances in the State Business Sector, the extra increase in pensions the expansion and increase in family allowance up to the age of 3, cut in NHS co-payments, free textbooks in the first cycle of elementary education, unfreezing the Index of Social Support and increasing the taxation on high-value real estate.

There are three lessons we have to stress on the options the country needs.

First. The evolution of the situation confirms that the cuts in wages and rights were an economic and social disaster, that the path of worsening exploitation and impoverishment is not a solution, and confirms that the improvement of wages, pensions, rights and social advances is an important stimulus to economic development.

Second. The evolution of the situation also shows that even though there are advances, there is not the necessary answer to the improvement of living conditions and rights and to solve the problems of the country, without a break up with the options of the PS, convergent with the PSD and the CDS, of submission to the interests of big business and the conditionings and blackmails of the European Union.

Third. The evolution of the situation proves the PCP right, shows that for the continuation of the defence, replacement and achievement of rights, for an answer to national problems it is necessary for the country to get rid of the right-wing policies, a patriotic and left-wing policy.

A central issue is the valorisation of work and workers, their wages and their rights.

It is necessary to face the offensive by employers aimed at conditioning wages, attacking working hours, seeking deregulation, bank of hours, concentrated shifts, eliminating Saturday as a weekly rest day, which promotes precariousness and seeks to call into question rights and working conditions.

It is necessary to promote the claiming action for the general increase of salaries for all workers, including those in Public Administration and the State Business Sector, it is necessary to increase the National Minimum Wage to 600 euros in January 2018.
It is necessary to repeal the grievous aspects of labour legislation, of the Labour Code and labour legislation of the Public Administration, namely the expiry of collective bargaining and the reinstatement of the most favourable treatment, and demand the restoration of the rights which were questioned.

The struggle for claims is the way, in the workplaces, companies, sectors.
A struggle that has progressed and that we welcome. It is time to carry out a strong claiming action, the struggle is the guarantee of the defence of rights and improvement of living and working conditions.
The general increase in salaries is necessary and the increase of the National Minimum Wage to 600 euros in January 2018 is an essential measure.

The PCP notes the increase in the National Minimum Wage that has taken place and is inseparable from the struggle of workers and the action of the PCP, but believes that it is necessary to consider an additional increase in its amount, hence we advocate its setting to 600 euros in January 2018.

Many reasons justify the increase of the National Minimum Wage.
The National Minimum Wage despite the most recent increases, has not restored the purchasing power lost by workers over the years, is very low, 557 euros, which means that a worker takes home 495 euros net.

The increase of the National Minimum Wage is a sign of valorisation of work and of workers.
The increase of the National Minimum Wage represents an essential measure to combat the situation of workers who carry out their activity and become poor while working.
It is nothing new that low wages and, in particular, the amount of the National Minimum Wage are an undeniable cause of poverty.

The increase of the minimum wage, besides improving living conditions, is a factor that contributes to strengthening Social Security financing.
There is no reason why the National Minimum Wage should not be set at this amount next January.
This is an essential, fair and achievable measure.
The PCP continues to fight for this goal.

In this new phase of national life it was proved how misleading was the thesis disseminated by the great economic groups and the policy that serves them regarding its hypothetical negative impacts on the economy and on employment.
The increase in the Minimum Wage in the last two years, for which we battled and fell short of what was possible and needed to recover its high devaluation during years of freezing, did not translate, neither in economic degradation nor in more unemployment , on the contrary.
Nor come up with the worn out argument of costs for business.

The wages weigh just over 21% in the cost structure of companies, much lower than other costs in energy, fuel, telecommunications, credit or insurance.
The evolution of the distribution of wealth in our country reflects a scandalous concentration of wealth.
It is not by chance that in Portugal 1% of the population owns 25% of the wealth and 5% of the population holds around 50% of the national wealth.

We are a country marked by severe wage and income inequalities.
The struggle of the workers is decisive, in the companies, workplaces, sectors, for the general claiming action, defence of the rights established in collective bargaining, restoration of rights, new advances in the improvement of living and working conditions.

This struggle has not stood still and continues in many companies and in various sectors. Tomorrow, on the 15th, teachers will be on strike and have called a concentration demanding their career ladders and counting of service time, others are already announced like the strike of the miners, but also, among others, the struggle in the area of healthcare in Public Administration.
On the counting time in career progressions. For the PCP, the problem that is posed about counting time for career progression - which concerns teachers and the military, security forces and services, healthcare professionals, justice, among others - is a problem that must be solved. In the opinion of the PCP, the length of service in all these careers should be considered.

In the common examination of the Budget, the PCP made clear its position on this matter: all service time must be counted for progression purposes and the Government must find with the trade unions or professional associations the form and timetable to implement the payment of the time during which it was frozen.
The Government has all the conditions to find solutions together with trade unions or professional associations for every career. The PCP will present the necessary proposal to clarify that all service time should count towards career progression.

And if the struggle in all sectors is essential, their convergence is of the utmost importance.

Hence the importance of the National Demonstration next Saturday, November 18 in Lisbon, called by the CGTP-IN, a day of struggle for the claims of workers in all sectors, a day to value work and workers, to defend their class interests, for a developed and sovereign Portugal. The PCP calls for the participation of all workers and people in this great demonstration.

The Portuguese Communist Party relies on the workers for their support and intervention, and reaffirms the everlasting commitment of the Party on which the workers can rely. If there is a lesson and teaching from History, of the action and struggle of the workers over more than a century to the present, it is that their rights, their achievements have never been gifts or discoveries of the legislator, but rather the result of the action and struggle they waged.

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