In 2016 unions reluctantly negotiated a competitiveness pact that involved an additional 24 hours' work a year with no extra pay, a 30% cut in holiday pay for public sector workers and a transfer of pension contributions from employers to employees. In anticipation of the next bargaining round some unions have already confirmed that they want the additional hours to be cut. Unions are particularly unhappy that while workers saw an increase in working time and an effective cut in take-home pay to deliver the pact, the employers failed to deliver on their side of the bargaining with more investment.
Unions gearing up to ensure end of working hours increase
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At a meeting on 22 October the health workers' union confirmed its opposition to the government's pensions reforms and said it would fight to restore the right to early retirement for health workers. The reforms, including raising the pension age to 65, have met with widespread opposition across the trade union movement not just over the measures themselves but also the way the government introduced them with little or no consultation. The law takes effect from 1 January 2019 and the health workers' union is considering legal action to challenge the changes to early retirement rights.
After three weeks of selective strike action in hospitals involving several public service unions, the government has used its powers to force an end to the action and refer the matter to a national labour tribunal which will meet in October. The strike was over pensions and ensuring that all hospital workers have a right to a pension from the first Krone earned. The government claimed a threat to health when the unions decided to step up the action. It has intervened in this way in the past, most recently in November 2018 in a dispute involving the NSF nurses' union (see epsucob@NEWS 22, 2018
The STAL and STML unions representing firefighters organised a protest in Lisbon on 16 April outside the Interior Ministry. The main concerns for the unions are about government proposals to reform the career structure for firefighters and to reduce retirement benefits. Other issues relate to payments for oncall time, 12-hour shifts and implementation of a pay structure that the two unions negotiated with the ministry. The unions have been frustrated by the government's reluctance to negotiate, delaying and then postponing a meeting due on 2 April.