Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa in Assembly of the Republic

Fight against precariousness, 35 hours of weekly work, 25 days of vacation and stop dismissals!

Fight against precariousness, 35 hours of weekly work, 25 days of vacation and stop dismissals!

The PCP called this debate to enshrine and restore rights that are owed to the workers.

Fight precariousness, set 35 hours of weekly work as the maximum limit for all workers, in the public and private sectors, enshrine the right to 25 days of annual vacation, stop dismissals by revoking the rules that allowed its facilitation. These are the proposals that are being debated today and that constitute some of the solutions advocated by the PCP for the enshrinement of rights due to the workers.

Rights that are owed because they were won by decades of struggle and were extorted from them with the Labour Code and its changes for the worse in the leaden years of the SGPs and the Pact of Aggression, with special responsibility of the PSD/CDS government, and were not restored, as was fair, given the resistance of the PS governments.

Rights that are owed for elementary reasons of social justice and are necessary to solve the problems of workers with low wages who are impoverished even when working, subject to unacceptable levels of precarious employment and laws of the jungle that prevail in the labour world in the face of an almost inoperative Authority of Work Conditions (ACT), subject to the sabotage of collective bargaining by the large employers and the deregulation of labour relations that prevents the reconciliation of work and family life.

Rights that must be enshrined and restored, for added reasons, at a time when the pandemic is used as a pretext to harm workers and implement plans of regression, worsening workers' exploitation and social inequalities, increasing poverty and exclusion.

The contrast between the shocking increase in profits of some large companies and the increase in poverty among workers in times of pandemic would be, by itself, more than enough reason for the approval of the bills that the PCP brought for the appreciation of this Assembly today.

We are talking about realistic, fair and necessary demands.

We are talking, in some cases, of rights conquered by workers, which were in force and were taken away from them for no other reason than the very nature of right-wing policies of withdrawing workers' rights to favour large employers, increasing their profits.

We are talking, in other cases, about workers' rights that in a society that wants to be fair and developed should be unquestionable. The right to a stable job and not to be fired without just cause. The right to reconcile professional life with family life and parental responsibilities. The right to reconcile work with fair rest and the right to leisure as an indispensable condition for the restoration of workforce.

The attack on workers and their rights has been, for decades, a hallmark of right-wing policies. Successive amendments to the Labour Code determined by PSD and CDS governments, but also by PS governments, have been unbalancing labour relations in a single sense: always against workers and their rights, always in favour of large employers and their privileges.

When the Portuguese people defeated the PSD and the CDS in 2015, there was great expectation for a change in labour laws in a sense favourable for workers. There was a recovery of rights and income, to which the PCP contributed a lot, but there was not, however, the change that was required, and is needed, in the sense of recovering the fundamental rights of workers.

It was by choice and will of the PS that this recovery of rights did not take place and it was the successive rejection of the PCP's proposals by the PS that led to the situation that persists today.

Large employers continued to be able to sabotage collective bargaining; the expiry of collective bargaining was promoted and the principle of more favourable treatment of the worker was not reinstated as a backbone of labour legislation; no measures were taken to limit the extreme precariousness of employment relationships; the mechanisms for the deregulation of working hours and work days were not altered through group and individual hour banks or the imposition of night and shift work; arbitrariness in collective dismissals, dismissals for inadequacy, for extinction of the job, or for anything or everything were not prevented; the intervention capacity of the ACT, which remains unable to prevent even the grossest violations of labour legislation, has not been strengthened; the amounts of severance pay, which remain at the established bargain prices, were not reinstated and, instead, the trial period was doubled, as if the precariousness that already existed were not enough.

The fight against job precariousness should be a civilisational fight, just like the fight against child labour once was. In science, arts and entertainment, education and health, in the multiple forms of falsely independent work carried out through digital platforms, in monthly, weekly, daily or hourly contracts, in work performed through temporary employment agencies, on the digital platforms that pocket part of the meagre salary, there is a whole world of precariousness to which it is necessary to say enough.

The Portuguese astronomer and astrophysicist Nuno Peixinho has obtained international recognition that allows him to have his name attributed to an asteroid but does not have the recognition in his own country that allows him to have a permanent contract as a researcher.

Fighting precariousness, set 35 hours of weekly work as the maximum limit for all workers, in the public and private sectors, enshrine the right to 25 days of annual vacation, stop dismissals by revoking the rules that allowed their facilitation. These are the proposals that are today being debated and that constitute some of the solutions advocated by the PCP and that the workers need in order to defend their rights and their living conditions.

Throughout this debate, we heard the usual arguments to reject the solutions proposed by the PCP.

We heard the litany of social concertation, as if the Assembly of the Republic were not the competent sovereign body to legislate on workers' rights. Those who intend to transform social concertation into a kind of corporate chamber capable of conditioning the exercise of legislative power only want to guarantee large employers a right of veto over any and every change in labour legislation that is against their immediate interests.

We heard the litany of competitiveness of companies, as if it has not already been demonstrated that the low wage policy that has been put into practice is not guaranteeing the competitiveness of the Portuguese economy.

We heard the litany of denial of class struggle, considered a thing of the past, as if those who oppose any change in labour legislation in a direction favourable to the workers do not know very well which side they are on in this struggle.

The PCP knows which side it is on, and will never give up the fight that our times demand for the valorisation of work and workers.

The PCP, as is its right, demanded that the vote on the bills that we are debating take place today. It is important that each political force now assumes responsibility for its choices. The Portuguese who make a living from their work need to know who they can count on. The PCP will not fail them.

And that is why we address the new generations of workers so that you become aware that nothing will be handed to you. Everything will have to be conquered. By you!

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