Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, PCP Parliamentary Conference

«This is a time that requires us not to waive continuing the necessary fight for the valorisation of work and workers»

«This is a time that requires us not to waive continuing the necessary fight for the valorisation of work and workers»

Comrades,

We are holding our Parliamentary Conference with a programme covering the entire Lisbon Metropolitan Area, paying particular attention to its problems and of the people who live and work here, but also with an eye on the situation in the country, on the living conditions of the workers and of the people, and determined by the aim of giving them better solutions with our initiative and proposal.

We are living in a period in which justified concerns are mounting with the evolution of the economic and social situation, where aggravated problems are weighing in, such as unemployment, the setback in the living conditions of thousands of Portuguese, the growing problems of micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, job precariousness and increased poverty.

A serious situation where the impact of the epidemic weighs heavily on the country but goes far beyond it. It is also the effect of the use that big capital and the great interests that dominate the Portuguese economy make from it to increase exploitation, and it cannot be equally disconnected in its consequences from the wrong choices of years and years of right-wing policy by PS, PSD and CDS governments that weakened the country in terms of economic, and also social structure and that made it increasingly vulnerable to any situation of conjunctural change or crisis.

In the Lisbon Metropolitan Area and in the social area, this situation is clearly evident in a substantial increase in unemployment. More than half of the recent unemployed are workers with a precarious job and with low wages, who have an unquestionable, disproportionate and great weight in this Metropolitan Area that affects different sectors of activity.

Examples of a persistent precarious employment relationship, with a significant weight in the Metropolitan Area, are those involving, for example, workers in the culture and education sector, where, contrary to what is announced, the government remains engaged in maintaining this social scourge. Recent openings for teachers reveal that thousands and thousands of teachers have no vacancy in fixed bonds and will continue to be in a precarious situation. In culture, the government's proposal for the Statute of Professionals of this sector, presented for public consultation that has now ended, means the maintenance and legalisation of precariousness in artistic and cultural work, if its content is not changed.

But other layers of the population, many of whom are micro and small entrepreneurs, face a difficult situation in their lives that demands our attention. The economic and health situation does not affect everyone equally and the impacts on companies are quite different between sectors of activity. The drop in production in the sectors of arts and culture, accommodation and restaurant business, local commerce and services, among others, is very sharp. This fall, which in 2020 had already been 12.5% in volume, this year continued to increase.

A situation that is more aggravated when we witness a significant increase in the price of fuel, energy and other factors, with an impact on business costs, but also on the increase in the cost of living in general. A situation that required on the part of the government a position other than just looking sideways, as is happening, and that these Conference will not fail to reflect on and take into account.

In fact, it is those companies, such as Galp or EDP, which have guaranteed important profits in the year that has ended and distributed large dividends to their shareholders, which are now imposing new and higher prices to guarantee additional profits and shareholder benefits, at the cost of other activities and the living conditions of the populations.

It is a fact that Portugal could go further in terms of social support and to the group of affected sectors, as well as support for investment, aiming at boosting the economy. Due to a clear lack of political will on the part of the PS minority government, which remains chained in its basic options and guidelines to the essential theses of the right-wing policy and in obedience to the primacy of the deficit, Portugal was among the European countries with the least budgetary resources available to tackle the epidemic and many of these means were largely directed at economic and financial groups.

It could also have gone further in responding to the problems facing the National Health Service. A vital service for the defence of the health of the Portuguese, which, despite the persistence of the epidemic and the structural difficulties known for a long time, has not only been ensuring the treatment to all those who contracted Covid-19, but also helping to recover from the delays caused by the epidemic.

A response that could be even more effective, were it not for the absence of decisive measures to strengthen its response capacity. Since March 2020, the month in which the first case of Covid-19 was detected in Portugal, the PCP, in line with what it had been doing over the last few years, presented a significant set of proposals to the Assembly of the Republic, which if implemented would allow the recovery of other diseases and a faster return to normal functioning of the NHS units.

Proposals to increase the number of missing professionals, renew and strengthen equipment, improve working and care conditions, strengthen public healthcare teams that are fundamental not only in epidemic crises, but above all in the promotion and prevention of disease.

This has not been the path chosen by the government.

In the fight against Covid-19, once again prevailed, not the need to find a balanced relationship between the effective fight against the epidemic outbreak and measures that prevent the country from continuing to march towards the degradation of the economic and social situation, but the use of the so-called red lines whose main aim is to lockdown again what is being unlocked, sustained by the transfer of responsibility to individual behaviours in order to evade the absence or insufficiency of the measures that are imposed.

This happened once again with the government's decision on June 16, in which, supported by an assessment focused only on the growth in the number of cases, it opted to back down from measures taken previously, closing moving in and out of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area.

A decision that does not reflect the positive evolution that has been registered with the advance of vaccination, namely the lesser severity of the disease, the significant reduction in patients hospitalised in intensive care units and wards, and also in the number of deaths.

If the long-standing proposals put forward by the PCP for rapid vaccination of all through the diversification of the purchase of other vaccines already referenced by the WHO had been implemented and the hiring of fundamental nursing staff for the full functioning of the vaccination centres, today the situation in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area and in Portugal, would reflect an even more positive evolution.

What the current epidemiological situation calls for are measures that allow rapid vaccination of all, the implementation of testing and the strengthening of public healthcare teams, which are fundamental to the screening of new cases.

The issues of justice and the fight against corruption are also on the agenda and with debate already scheduled in the Assembly, namely our proposals, which we renewed once again on unjustified enrichment and on the prohibition of the State's recourse to arbitration in administrative and fiscal matters, putting an end to the privilege regime granted to large tax debtors or PPP contract concessionaires.

The PCP has always demonstrated its commitment to adopting political and legislative measures against corruption. We hope that those who fill the public media space with eloquent dissertations on justice and the fight against corruption will accompany us in the materialization of our pressing proposals.

A problem that demands an urgent solution as a result of the situation created by the epidemic, with a worrying impact on the education sector, is the one that is linked to the need to find solutions to effectively guarantee the recovery of the learning of students forced into lockdown. A serious problem that requires more substantial solutions to overcome the insufficient measures that the government has been announcing. Solutions that necessarily have to go through the immediate hiring of more education workers, including teachers and operational agents, the consideration of the urgent reduction in the number of students per class and the immediate restoration of schools.

But pressing and central to the current situation is the response to the workers' problems that are there as a result of the right-wing policy of decades and well evidenced with the impacts of the epidemic and the use that is being made of it, deepening exploitation and jeopardising their rights and which must be rejected.

It is necessary to advance the rights and living conditions of the workers. It is necessary and possible with their growing struggle and which the PCP welcomes, reaffirming its commitment to action, solidarity and support.

It is necessary to fight those who want setbacks in wages and rights, in a strategy that enhances injustices and inequalities and which, if adopted, would sink the country. In the situation we live with the impacts of the epidemic, the increase in wages and the achievement of rights for development and employment is even more decisive.

This is a time when it is necessary to confront the PS government, which multiplies words and promises, but with its class options continues to stand against the workers.

This is a time of struggle for the general increase in wages, the valorisation of careers and professions, for the increase of the National Minimum Wage to 850 euros, against the deregulation of working hours and for its reduction to 35 hours a week, to combat precariousness so that a permanent job corresponds to an effective employment contract, for better working conditions and for the effective protection of health, against discrimination and inequalities, for the repeal of the grievous norms of labour legislation, for an effective application of rights of trade union organisation and action, of the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.

The PCP stands up to its commitment as a Party of the workers in its general action and in the Assembly of the Republic.

The PCP did not waver in the face of campaigns and blackmail, at no time in the last year, as in the last century, and did not stop being where it needed to be in defending the rights of the workers and the people.

The Parliamentary Group of the PCP in the Assembly of the Republic tabled initiatives and fought for them on the increase in salaries, the repeal of the grievous norms of labour legislation, the elimination of the expiry of collective bargaining and the reinstatement of the principle of more favourable treatment to the worker, combating the deregulation of work shifts and the subversion of the concept of working times with manipulation of the so-called right to disconnect, prevention, restitution and compensation of shift work, protection in telework, refusing that the worker's home be an extension of the company, combating dismissals with the replacement of cut compensations, combating precariousness, namely temporary work and subcontracting, correct guidance and increase of the efficacy of the Authority for Working Conditions with the reinforcement of resources and executive action .

The Parliamentary Group of the PCP is not mistaken in its priorities and, expressing the voice of the workers on May Day and in the National Demonstration in Porto, addressed the Assembly of the Republic on workers' rights, confronting the PS government with the current situation and its responsibilities.

This is a time to increase the struggle and intervention, in the workplace, in companies and on the streets, and to implement legislative measures that respond to the interests of workers and for the country's development.

The PCP took the initiative of dedicating the plenary session of the Assembly of the Republic on June 30 to the discussion of important bills presented by the Parliamentary Group of PCP on workers' rights.

The bill that reduces the maximum weekly working hours to 35 hours for all workers. This is the path that is needed to ensure the compatibility of professional life with personal and family life, and an essential measure to guarantee full employment when scientific and technological development is moving fast, allowing for more and more to be done in less time. Scientific evolution that should be a gain for the lives of workers and for society, and not a burden of increasing unemployment and exploitation.

The bill that enshrines the right to 25 days of annual vacation, replacing a right that was cut, eliminating a setback and responding to the times we live in, in which the valorisation of work is made by articulating it with the different dimensions of life.

The bill that fights job precariousness and strengthens workers' rights, applying the principle that a permanent job should correspond to an effective employment contract, in which the PCP proposes the reinforcement of mechanisms to convert precarious ties into effective links, eliminates the very short-term contract and puts an end to the extension of the trial period to 180 days.

The bill that alters the regime of collective dismissal and dismissal due to extinction of the job post and repeals dismissal for inadequacy, strengthening workers' rights. Full employment must be the objective of the national policy, taking advantage of the capacities of each one and providing training and placement of workers according to the evolution of the sectors of activity. When dismissal due to extinction of the job post and dismissal for inadequacy are used to persecute workers and when there is a use of the epidemic and capital blackmails with the threat of dismissal to condition wages and rights, when there are companies that under the cover of the current situation, use the existing legislation, to create a fast track to dismissals, namely collective dismissals, the PCP proposes measures that enforce the rights enshrined in the Constitution and prevent the ongoing arbitrariness.

Yes, this is a time that requires us not to renounce continuing the necessary fight for the valorisation of work and workers, but which also calls for the contribution of their struggle! This struggle continues to be necessary and indispensable to defend rights and reach an alternative policy that makes a break with the right-wing policies

Good work!

>
  • Trabalhadores
  • Assembleia da República
  • Central