European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in Portugal - background summary

The Portuguese Constitution recognises the right to strike as a fundamental right of employees and forbids lock-outs. It is difficult to assess fully the Portuguese situation regarding labour conflicts because neither ‘general strikes’ nor public sector strikes are taken into account in the statistics.

  • The number of strikes had been decreasing during the last decade, but in recent years (2010-2013), according to official data, the austerity measures led to waves of protest, including large demonstrations and strikes.
  • In 2012, there was a significant increase in the number of strikes and in the number of employees on strike (the highest since 1994);
  • In 2013, there were street demonstrations where the social movement ‘To hell with the Troika!’ (Que se lixe a troika!) participated together with the CGTP-IN. There were many sectoral strikes (especially in the transport and manufacturing sectors), usually lasting one day.
  • Between 2010-2013, there were five general strikes, as many as had occurred since the start of the democratic regime in 1974, and they were the first in 22 years to be called jointly by the two main union confederations (UGT and CGTP).
  • The protests did not stop with the government change in October 2015: in January 2016 there was a general strike in the public sector organised by the CGTP-IN to support the sudden return to the 35-hour working week, which came into effect in July 2016.

The immediate results regarding claims acceptance are rather disappointing [1]. However, as a result of these collective actions, some measures proposed by the government were withdrawn (e.g., the proposal to extend the maximum length of daily working time by half an hour and the proposal to change the social security tax (TSU)).

[1] Hermes Augusto Costa, Hugo Dias and José Soeiro. ‘As greves e a austeridade em Portugal: Olhares, expressões e recomposições’, Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais, No 103, 2014, p. 189.