Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, Public Session “Valuing Work and Workers”

Only the valorization of work and of the workers will allow to go further in the realization of a better life for all

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Today, with the holding of this Public Session, we begin a national campaign for the valorization of labor and workers, this essential component of the patriotic and leftist politics that the PCP recommends to the Country.

In this struggle that we are fighting for the affirmation and implementation of another policy for Portugal, this is a dimension that assumes an important priority, considering the labor and social reality that is present in the national life.

We are aware of our responsibilities and of the importance of our initiative, especially in the context of intervention in institutions, with a view to improving the working and living conditions of the Portuguese. No other party has taken up the defense and valorization of work and workers, as has been done by the PCP, in terms of the legislative proposal to replace and reinforce labor and social rights and always, and in all circumstances, to solve pressing problems with concrete proposals, to defend, restore and conquer rights.

But we also know that this is a fight that does not dispenses the participation of those who are the producers of wealth - the workers – it does not dispense the commitment and struggle of everyone and of each one, of their protest action and of their organizations. It’s a participation and struggle that have always proved decisive in all moments of social and civilizational progress in our history and which today also imposes itself as essential to reverse the picture of great social retrogression as we have lived in recent years.

It is to give more scope to our vast initiative and political intervention in this area and force the workers’ action and struggle in defense of their rights and the right to a dignified life that we travel throughout the country, while affirming the importance and necessity of a policy alternative.

An alternative policy that requires creating jobs, defending workers’ rights, improving purchasing power with increasing wages; combating deregulation of working hours and eliminating precariousness, ensuring stability and security of employment, halting and combating redundancies; protection in unemployment; eliminate labor market regulations; to put an end to bargaining and collective bargaining and to restore the withdrawn rights.

The offensive against the workers in recent years has been a long way off. The right-wing policy of PS, PSD and CDS devaluation of work and its role in the development of society and the attack on workers’ fundamental rights and their living conditions was very broad and diversified. A campaign supported by a brutal ideological offensive that identified labor and social rights of workers with corporate interests and justified the extortion of labor rights and incomes, as a fallacious necessity to assert the country’s competitiveness.

An offensive that has been particularly serious with the PEC policy and in recent years the Pact of Aggression, which is the responsibility of the party troika that has governed the country and which the PSD/CDS government has implemented, has created an even more negative situation and particularly serious in terms of workers’ rights.

The result was the growing concentration and centralization of wealth in the hands of economic and financial groups and an increasingly opulent minority, and the impoverishment of all workers was the marked deterioration of working conditions and the country’s own regression and sinking a minority benefiting not only from the harshest and most drastic conditions of labor exploitation, but also from the State’s financial support for its activities, including to cover its fraudulent operations, such as banking, as a beneficiary of a disastrous policy of privatizations, exceptional benefits and incentives of all kinds, and a fiscal policy that rewarded capital incomes over labor. So today, 10% of the richest in Portugal hold about 53% of total wealth, while the vast majority of workers, about 60% receive a wage that slightly exceeds 800 euros per month and more than 700,000 workers have a less than 600 euros.

In this new phase of national political life and in the context of the new correlation of forces existing in the Assembly of the Republic, it was possible to create the conditions to begin a process of recovery of the rights and incomes that were usurped in recent years and to promote some advances that go beyond PS admitted in its electoral programs and of their own government.

In the list of measures taken in favor of workers and labor there is unquestionably the hallmark of the initiative and proposal of the PCP in the areas of wage replacement, stolen holidays, overtime pay, IRS surcharge and creation of new grades, cut 10% of the unemployment allowance, 35 hours a week in the Public Administration, progression in careers and the corresponding remuneration, replacement of the Christmas subsidy, among others.

However, many problems remain unanswered and the social situation in Portugal continues to be marked by serious problems and deep injustices that can only be overcome by implementing a policy that breaks with the revenues and impositions that have led in recent years to the impoverishment of workers and the deep social inequalities that are present in Portuguese society.

This is a policy that is delayed and which is subject to great resistance that it is urgent to overcome.

It is not possible to affirm a true policy of development and social progress without answering the problems of the chronic and unjust distribution of national income, now tending and increasingly unbalanced, without addressing unemployment and precariousness, deregulation of working hours, health and safety problems at work in marked degradation, as well as the intensification of work rates.

A requirement when the so-called digital technological revolution or the new industrial revolution 4.0. is a pretext for further deepening of labor exploitation mechanisms and new extortion of labor and more sophisticated ways of attacking workers’ rights under the pretext of adjusting and making labor and social policies more flexible to the reality of new digital technologies.

Advances in science and technology, which should serve to liberate and facilitate the lives of all of us, are once again the object of an exclusive appropriation of capital gains in an operation that wants to multiply by far the technological development on the profit side and its increase.

It was following the path of expansion of the loot over the work that the governments of recent years, now the PS, before the PSD and CDS, have promoted step by step, package after package of measures, the change to the worst of labor laws, the devaluation of labor, fundamental rights and workers’ wages.

Measures that resulted in the imposition of forced and unpaid work, namely the reduction of days of vacation and cut of days of compulsory rest, but also the reduction of wages, namely with the cut in the payment of work on rest days, holidays and overtime, but also through other mechanisms, such as new flexibilities in the organization of working time; bank of hours; individual adaptability; group adaptability; time of availability; work with intermittent part-time work.

With a view to the individualization and precariousness of labor relations, they have promoted, with their revisions of labor laws and the Labor Code, a general barrier of collective bargaining, including the refusal to negotiate in the Public Administration.

These resulted in the admission of the expiration of the conventions which is used as an element of blackmail on the trade unions and the workers for the withdrawal of rights, as well as the elimination of the principle of more favorable treatment to the worker.

An offensive of legislative regression that also promoted the redundancies, in opposition to the constitutional prohibition of dismissal without just cause, admitting the dismissal by inadaptation without objective cause of change in the work position, along with a marked reduction of the value of the indemnifications.

A set of changes and measures that favored a well-defined strategy for the capital that has been materializing in the Portuguese labor reality, aiming at the replacement of workers with rights by workers without rights.

It is not by chance that today 61.5% of young people have precarious works. That there are more than one million and two hundred thousand workers in this situation in the Country and more than 250 thousand to work part time. That Portugal is one of the countries of the European Union where we work more hours a week.

To restore unjustly usurped rights and incomes that the PCP has been presenting a set of initiatives with very concrete proposals aimed at repealing the labor laws, the Labor Code and the labor legislation of the Public Administration.

Initiatives to guarantee a labor law that takes back its protection nature from the weakest part - the only one that is compatible with the project that the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic itself.

Proposals for replacement of the amounts and calculation rules in severance and redundancy benefits, such as the guarantee of the criterion of one month of basic remuneration and fees for each full year of seniority, without a maximum limit of years.

For the replacement of the amounts and rules for calculating the payment of extraordinary work, additional work and on a public holiday.

For the guarantee of the annual holiday period for the minimum duration of 25 working days for all workers.

By revoking the individual adaptability mechanisms and the individual time bank and other forms of time deregulation.

Reinstatement of the principle of more favorable treatment and prohibition of the lapse of collective labor contracts by means of their successive renewal until their replacement by another freely negotiated between the parties.

But also, proposals aimed at combating the precariousness and repeal of the stalwart norms of the Labor Law in Public Functions.

Initiatives that are imposed by the correctness of its objective of simple restoration of rights, but which assume an even greater reason for being in the last two years a mean stagnation of real wages and the growth of precarious work.

An evolution that shows that it is not enough to make the economy grow. It must be placed at the service of all and the improvement of the quality of life of all working Portuguese. It is the workers who produce wealth and must distribute it fairly. And that requires more rights and salaries.

This economy grew because it benefited from the enlargement of the domestic market by the replacement of rights and income that had been extorted and which would increase, if such a replacement was not as limited and restrictive as it is to be, by government resistance, and if another policy free from the current economic, social and budgetary constraints imposed by the right-wing policy and the constraints of the European Union.

A few days ago the Plenary of the Assembly of the Republic went to vote on the draft PCP Law to replace the payment of extraordinary work and work on holiday that we have described above.

Once again, the PS government was wrong to join its vote to PSD and CDS to reject the PCP proposal. A proposal that was not more than the simple replacement of what had been extorted in the period of the Pact of Aggression. A position that evidences that the PS does not take off its commitments with the great patronage.

The PS’s option to join hands to the PSD and CDS in the lead of the initiative of the draft Law of the PCP shows that there is much to do to remove the old policy that indistinctly governments of both have put into practice in the Country with serious consequences social policies.

We know of the difficulties that present themselves. We know of the resistance and insistent action of great capital to consolidate the setbacks imposed by determined governments in serving their interests.

It is a reality that appeals not to desistance and conformism, but to fight the fair fight for the valorization of work and the workers with even more determination.

It is a fight that is under way and is developing and which must necessarily have to count on the increasing demand for action and the development of the workers’ struggle in the workplace and at the sectoral level in defense of the rights, increase in wages; to combat attempts to deregulate working hours and to demand 35 hours a week for all; to combat precariousness, advancing more vigorously in the process initiated in the public administration and also advancing in the private sector; improvement of working conditions; by the elimination of labor laws, in particular the revocation of the lapse of collective bargaining agreements.

It was with the struggle that we have reached here, taking steps in the recovery of rights and income, it will be with the struggle and our collective action that we will be able to go further in the realization of a better life for all that only the valuation of the work and of the workers will allow!

I will not give up from this combat!