Statement by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary

The situation of workers and May Day

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We are going to have a May Day, in this year of 2020, under different conditions of pressure on the health and rights of the workers, making this day of struggle even more important. In this time of epidemic, prevention and treatment are needed and this is being done and must be done. But at this time, on the footsteps of the epidemic outbreak, an epidemic of attack on the workers, their rights, wages, bonds, work hours, working conditions, hygiene, safety and health is being promoted. Covering the virus with the footprint of exploitation is being deeply forced on the lives of workers.

To the direct consequences in terms of health, we have to add fear and a promoted panic, the adoption of preventive measures that were reflected in the economic activity and in the social life and mainly used by the centres of big capital for an avalanche of attack and brutal worsening of the exploitation of workers, as well as for exercising and getting them used to restrictions in terms of rights.

While at the same time concealing the appropriation of vast public resources and the wealth created by the workers by capital, the idea is insistently conveyed that, in view of the situation, sacrifices are necessary for the workers, pointing to the perspective of years of worsening exploitation, national sinking and limitation of social, trade union and political rights.

Hundreds of thousands of workers were dismissed, namely those who had precarious, hourly, daily contracts and self-employed workers who no longer had a job and added to the distressing situation of many micro, small and medium-size entrepreneurs. More than one million workers with the application of the simplified lay-off saw their wages cut by a third. Hundreds of thousands were put into “teleworking”, many of them with their children at home due to the closure of schools, creating an unsustainable situation. The working hours are even more deregulated. Many of the workers whose activities have not been suspended or who are in the first line of the response, with great intensity of work, did not have the necessary health and safety conditions at work.

It doesn't have to be this way!

The importance of resistance and struggle, the valorisation of work and workers, is of the utmost importance for the improvement of their living conditions and as a core feature for the country's development and future.

In the field of claims, we have to highlight the immediate objectives, linked to the workers' concerns, such as: the guarantee of health and safety conditions at work now more demanding; the full payment of wages; respect for working hours; the guarantee of employment, the hiring of workers, the integration of workers with precarious ties; the effective guarantee of the right to vacations and their replacement wherever it was violated; the requirement for intervention by the Working Conditions Authority to safeguard workers' rights. These objectives are associated with safeguarding and exercising rights, freedoms and guarantees, to start with the right to trade union action, which is always necessary and which is now even more important for workers.

At the same time, we have to set forth the struggle for the goal of a general increase in wages for all workers; valorisation of professions and careers; increase in the National Minimum Wage; fighting the deregulation of working hours and reducing them to 35 hours per week in the public and private sectors; the fight against precariousness by applying the principle that a permanent job has to correspond to an effective employment contract; the guarantee of rights of trade union action, demonstration and strike; the repeal of the grievous rules of labour legislation. Lines of claims that are associated with the defence and valorisation of public services essential to the well-being of the populations, namely the National Health Service.

The valorisation of work and workers, their wages and rights is necessary for the improvement of their living conditions, but it is also essential as a stimulus for the creation of jobs and economic development. This is a decisive aspect to respond to the current situation. The proof is there. Between 2011 and 2015, the cut in wages, rights and pensions added recession to recession, brutally increased unemployment, sank the country. Between 2015 and 2019, although with an insufficient dimension, the defence, restoration and achievement of rights, meant gains for the workers and contributed decisively for the creation of jobs and for the development of the country.

This is a time of resistance and struggle, given what we have and what is on the way. May Day is a milestone for affirmation and struggle. Those who will be in the places assigned by CGTP-IN, respecting the criteria of protection and sanitary distancing, will directly give voice to the concerns and demands of the workers. Millions of workers and pensioners will join in solidarity in their workplaces and areas of residence, giving the answer that is needed to big capital and its representatives and propagandists who want to silence the workers to impose the crushing of their rights and living conditions.

After the 25th of April, Grândola Vila Morena and the National Anthem sung throughout the country, 130 years later May Day will be, following the appeal by the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers - Intersindical Nacional (CGTP-IN), even more this year, an important affirmation of the struggle for the defence of workers' health and rights, for their valorisation and for a Portugal with a future. It will be an affirmation of the values of April, of the struggle for the emancipation of workers!

This is how it should be!