Civil service: Parliament slams the 40-hour working week

New legislation governing public sector workers, which also includes capping their unemployment benefit rights, still requires rubber stamping by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva. Public sector trade unions protest outside parliament.

Politics What's New — 30 July 2013 by Lusa News
Civil service: Parliament slams the 40-hour working week

Public sector trade unions protesting outside parliament on Monday (Photograph: Tiago Petinga/LUSA)

The ruling coalition government managed to bulldoze a controversial new 40-hour working week law through Parliament affecting the Portuguese civil service on Monday.

While the new legislation does not come into effect for 30-days from publication and still requires ratifying by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, the consequences of the move from a 7-hour to an 8-hour working day were already being dissected.

Demonstrators from a range of public sector trade unions were still protesting outside parliament when a member of FESAP – one of the unions – José Abrão, told Lusa that the Ministry of Finance had already set August 2 as a deadline for restructuring services and pinpointing areas in need of a haircut.

For instance, the 2013 State Budget imposes a minimum 50% reduction in the number of state employees on temporary working contracts.

Parliament also passed legislation capping the unemployment benefit rights of civil servants and stipulating the placement of those made redundant into mobility pools that expire after 12-months where if they haven’t been offered a contract, could face the door anyway.

After that period expires, civil servants may either leave the service and apply for unemployment benefit or wait for another civil service placement on unpaid leave of absence.

However, opponents are likely to challenge the moves as unconstitutional with the Left Bloc and PCP Communist party claiming that the measure is unconstitutional, with union leaders like Arménio Carlos, the Secretary General of the CGTP trade union federation, agreeing with them.

Carlos has pointed out that the new legislation stipulated a minimum of 40-hours per week for state sector employees while the Code of Employment governing the private sector sets a 40-hour total as the maximum. The union boss concludes that “a principle of equality is at stake and its a principle that should never be put at stake.”

There was approval for an additional levy on employers to underpin a future unemployment guarantee fund, which differs from civil service legislation in that it has gained the support from the main opposition Socialist PS party.

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