Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Seminar "Reduce working hours – combat deregulation and value life"

Reduce working hours - combat deregulation and value life

Reduce working hours - combat deregulation and value life

I welcome the participants who, with their interventions, brought useful and up-to-date information and reflection, contributing to enrich this timely initiative. I welcome the members of trade unions and other bodies representing workers. I welcome the representatives of the Workers’ Party of Belgium and Die Linke, from Germany, thanking them for sharing their experiences and valuing the work they carry out with PCP’s MPs in the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left of the European Parliament. I welcome you all to this important initiative on workers' rights and, in particular, on working hours, with all that they imply.

In the situation we are experiencing, the pandemic and its effects have been used by big capital to increase exploitation and use public resources to guarantee profits and distribute dividends, to promote dismissals, unemployment, poverty and inequalities, to call into question rights and working conditions and seek to limit political and trade union rights.

The lines of attack of increasing exploitation promoted by big capital join hands with the guidelines and measures determined by the European Union, in which the deregulation of working hours using all pretexts, from the tired old ones to those that are now wrapped up in scientific development and technological.

Advances in scientific and technical fields today enable to produce more, with better quality, greater efficiency and in less time, so it is beyond understanding that these advances do not translate into improved working and living conditions for workers.

Scientific and technical advances have served to concentrate wealth in economic and financial groups and are not a factor to improve the conditions for the articulation of family, personal and professional life. On the contrary, in recent years the number of workers in continuous work has increased without justification, who work on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, who work in shifts, and whose working hours have been deregulated through group and individual hour banks, through flexibility without limits.

In the meantime, the pandemic is being used to abolish working hours, calling into question the respect for its fixing and duration, in a process that is not restricted to a temporary situation, but that seeks to create habits that lead to the effective elimination of rights.

At the same time, riding on new technological advances, with the growing automation of the production process, which combines, in particular, artificial intelligence and computing, it is theorized, promoted and tries to apply the elimination of the very concept of working hours, whether or not using teleworking, pressure is exerted to expand working hours, permanent availability that is not compensated, with the added difficulty of defining, controlling and monitoring working times, as well as with the invasion of the privacy of workers' lives, the confusion between the work space, the family space, the personal and private space.

The announcement of measures after measures, of green papers, of European summits and pillars of social rights, proliferates, but what they really want is to increase exploitation.

It does not have to be like this! It cannot be like this!

The views promoted by the European Union in this regard must be rejected.

In Portugal, the PS government’s policy and its options, convergences and concessions to big capital, to PSD, CDS and their surrogates Chega and Liberal Initiative do not serve.

The interests of the workers and the people, the future of the country demand another path.

It is necessary to face the epidemic and its impacts, defend national production and create jobs, protect the environment.

Which implies valuing workers; a general increase in wages for all workers, namely the increase in the National Minimum Wage to 850 euros; valuing careers and professions; combating precariousness so that a permanent job corresponds to an effective employment contract; guaranteeing better working conditions and effective protection of workers' health and safety; combating discrimination and inequality, including between men and women; repealing the grievous norms of the labour legislation; guaranteeing the application of the rights of trade union organisation and activity.

The interests of the workers and the future of the country imply combating the deregulation of working hours and reducing working hours to 35 hours a week.

They imply preventing the abuse of continuous work, of shift and night work, which constitute a work regime with painful characteristics, and reinforcing the rights of workers in this situation, namely by ensuring:

- limiting night and shift work to situations that are technically and socially justified, provided that conditions of safety, health protection, maternity and paternity protection, infrastructures and social services compatible with this type working hours are guaranteed and appropriate subsidies and compensation for the workers covered through collective bargaining.

- clarification of the concept of night work, resuming its fixation between 8 pm and 7 am.

- non-application of mechanisms for deregulation of working hours regarding night and shift work.

- limiting the use of the 3x8 shift system and establishing even for this system the weekly reduction in working hours.

- the establishment of the periodicity in the enjoyment of the rotating rest days even on Saturday and Sunday.

- the obligation to carry out necessary medical examinations.

- the establishment of the minimum amount of shift allowance, every six months.

- the recognition of the right to an early retirement age, due to the hardship and painfulness of this type of work.

- the establishment of increased Social Security contributions to be paid by the employer in view of the demands placed on workers' compensation for shift work.
- the recognition of the right to leave the shift system, switching to daytime hours, after working for 20 years in this regime or when the worker reaches 55 years, without losing the allowance he receives at the time, without prejudice to the more favourable conditions set down in collective bargaining regulation.

The interests of the workers and the future of the country imply harnessing technological development to improve living and working conditions, denouncing and combating the offensive of deregulation and increasing working hours that bind the workers and their lives to discretion and to abuse, when material conditions are created as in no other historical time for further reductions in working hours, for a better standard of living.

The valorisation of work and workers, necessary and possible in the times we live in, calls for the patriotic and left-wing alternative, linked to the April values that Portugal needs and the PCP embodies.

An objective whose materialisation has the workers' struggle as a driving and decisive factor. to fight setbacks, exploitation and impoverishment, to respond to the problems, for a better life and a fairer society.

On the eve of the celebrations of the 47th. anniversary of the 25th. of April, when the 1st. of May draws nearer, it is time for participation and struggle, in companies and workplaces, in the popular celebrations of the 25th. of April, in the great day of 1st. of May struggle called by CGTP-IN.

It is time to participate in the national demonstration that CGTP-IN is organising on May 8 in Porto in view of the holding in that city of the so-called Social Summit of the European Union and of the European Council, for rights, for the improvement of living conditions, for social progress, for internationalist solidarity, between progressive and revolutionary forces, between workers and peoples in Europe and around the world.

Capitalism is injustice, inequality and exploitation. The PCP fights for the patriotic and left-wing alternative, for an advanced democracy with the values of April in the future of Portugal, for socialism.

When celebrating 100 years of struggle, the PCP reaffirms its confidence in the Portuguese workers and people, in the workers and peoples of the world, in their daily struggle, in the bold process of revolutionary transformation of society.