Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa in Assembly of the Republic

Defend rights to respond to workers' problems

Defend rights to respond to workers' problems

The life of the Portuguese workers and people has been determined by the consequences of the epidemic on their health but also by the attempt by capital and those who serve it, to use the virus as a pretext to increase exploitation, jeopardise labour, political and social rights.

Under the pretext of the epidemic or the conditions for economic recovery, there is no lack of people who seek to impose the worsening of exploitation and setback in living and working conditions as a way out of the serious national situation. A path of setback that could only undermine the national future and the country's development.

The PCP questions the government based on the concrete reality of the workers in Portugal, demanding a response and action by the government to defend labour rights and comply with the law, but also pointing out the path of the alternative policy that ensures national development based on the valorisation of the workers and their wages and rights as conditions for a future of progress and social justice.

It is not possible to evade the difficult reality that millions of workers face today, and it is for that that the government must answer.

What response does the government give to a reality marked by the devaluation of work, professions, professional careers, low wages that in many cases do not allow people to escape poverty?

What response does the government give to workers affected in their lives by prolonged and unregulated working times, by the unjustified generalization of continuous work and shift work, which are increasingly incompatible with personal and family life?

What responsibility does the government assume in view of the precariousness recreated and widespread with fixed-term contracts, the extended trial period, the plague of temporary work, false traineeships and self-employed “green receipts”, the provision of cascading services destroying employment relationships?

If the epidemic made the deterioration of health and safety conditions in the workplace evident, the lack of housing and sanitary conditions and the blackmail on workers with collective dismissals and low severance payments, if it continues to serve as an excuse for limiting and attempt to prevent trade union action and organisation, will the government stand idly by or intervene in defence of workers?

The responsibilities of the government are heavy when we look at a public administration in which wages, careers, workers' rights are devalued, where precariousness is not eliminated, where missing workers are not hired and workers with precarious bonds that are essential for guaranteeing and improving services, as is happening with nurses in the NHS, are dismissed.

The government's responsibilities are heavy in a labour inspection service without sufficient means, with inadequate guidelines and null executive action capacity, so often ineffective in the face of the violation of workers' rights, or in a labour justice that workers are unable to access to defend their rights.
The option that the government makes when maintaining the grievous norms of labour legislation, with a Labour Code that weakens and attacks workers' rights and which has been successively amended in turn or in convergence for the worse by PS, PSD and CDS, holds it responsible for the destruction collective bargaining and the rights it enshrines.

The exploitation, injustices and inequalities that affect the workers contrast with the concentration of wealth in a small handful of shareholders who appropriate the wealth created by the workers, plunder colossal public resources, accumulate profits, distribute dividends, do not pay their due taxes and take abroad the country's money.

This is not right. This cannot be so.

The PS had all the possibilities and opportunities to assume a change of position and start to defend workers' rights. It did not want to do so, it reaffirmed the option for the interests of capital, it opted for the impositions of the European Union.

The PS had every opportunity to respond to the most pressing needs, but not even the possibilities opened by the 2021 Budget it wants to use. The PS does not do this because it maintains an option to prioritize its class commitments instead of addressing the problems of the Country, of the workers and the people.

The PS resists, limits, does not comply in the face of the workers' problems, while it is open handed with the economic and financial groups, in convergence with the right-wing quartet of the PSD, CDS, Chega and Liberal Initiative.

And, for the future, they want more of the same.

They promote teleworking under conditions that mean tele-exploitation, apparently modern, but in fact more refined and violent. Make each employee's home an extension of the company, jeopardise their privacy and their health due to the permanence in the same place for hours on end, put pressure to disrespect working hours, try to avoid responsibility and transfer expenses to workers, it is too much.

In a perverse way, invoking a right to hang up, they want to unleash an unprecedented attack on working hours. Instead of demanding strict adherence to working times, fighting abuses, there is the idea of an unlimited availability that must be fixed, even going so far as to formally seek to affect workers beyond working hours.

They want to go back to the old daily hiring, now using technology, as with the so-called digital platforms.

In these times, of fascinating advances in the field of science and technology, how can we understand unacceptable labour relations? Look at the situation of agricultural workers, many of them immigrants who alert us to a return to the past in agriculture and which they want to replicate in other sectors.
They talk about protecting the environment, about green jobs, but more than protecting the environment, they want to find justifications for dismissals and unemployment, replace national production with imports, seriously harming the Country.

The same with regard to recovery. Recovery cannot be the code word for worsening exploitation, accumulation of profits, billions at the service of social inequalities and injustices, increased dependence and compromised sovereignty.

The PCP does not accept and combats these options.

The recovery must be synonymous with economic and social development, guaranteeing the future of Portugal, and have as a central feature the valorisation of work and workers.

The situation imposes and the future demands employment with rights, full employment.

It demands a general increase in wages as a national emergency, the valorisation of careers and professions, an increase in the national minimum wage to 850 euros, aiming to overcome the unfair distribution of National Income.

It demands the reduction of working hours to 35 hours a week, the limitation of continuous work and shift work, the respect and compliance with the working times in their different variants.

It demands the elimination of precariousness, the application of rights to all workers, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, equality between men and women.

It demands the use of technological development at the service of improving living and working conditions.

It demands the repeal of the grievous norms of the labour legislation, namely the expiry of collective bargaining and the replacement of the principle of more favourable treatment to the worker.

It demands an Authority for Working Conditions with means and guidelines for intervention in the defence and application of rights and a labour justice that acts effectively in the fulfilment of the rights that the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic enshrines.

It is urgent to break with the options of a past of regression and exploitation and to build a fairer Portugal in the labour and social level with new solutions, where the right to work and work with rights have a concrete implementation in our collective life.

This is what is needed.

This is the meaning of the workers' struggle, which is well expressed in the ongoing struggles, on May Day, at the national demonstration in Porto.

That is the PCP's project, to value work and workers, to ensure the patriotic and left-wing alternative that Portugal needs, to affirm the values of April in the future of Portugal.

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