Political parties set out labour and employment programmes
Before Portugal's general election on 10 October 1999, the main political parties set out their policies on social, employment and labour issues. Themes such as employment creation, training and equal opportunities were highlighted in nearly all party programmes.
A general election was held in Portugal on 10 October 1999. All the main parties represented in parliament - the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS), Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD), Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português, PCP) and People's Party (Partido Popular) - included important employment and labour-related issues in their programmes, with existing policies being rethought in some cases.
A number of employment issues were covered by the programmes of all the parties:
- solutions for dealing with unemployment;
- qualifications and vocational training;
- equal opportunities; and
- sweeping changes in the taxation, social security and health systems
The most important specific labour-related proposals of the various parties were as follows.
The ruling Socialist Party put forward a detailed programme, with the following key features:
- the issue of equal opportunities appears as a constant theme throughout;
- under the major heading of "a new generation of social policies: creating jobs, valuing people and increasing social cohesion", the programme contains a subheading entitled "a contract for change", which stresses dialogue as a means of achieving efficient change. It is said that the state should encourage a culture of dialogue, through "macro-concertation", concertation at all levels, autonomous social dialogue at all levels without state intervention, and worker participation in the life of companies;
- flexibility should always be accompanied by respect for the dignity of workers, with a refusal to accept illegal labour and labour deregulation; and
- specific proposals for change in industrial relations, such as transforming social dialogue mechanisms, "reinstitutionalising" the system of labour relations and eliminating obstacles by rethinking collective labour relations legislation and dispute-resolution mechanisms, rethinking the public labour administration in terms of risk prevention and inspection and other working conditions, creating the conditions for the establishment of negotiations, and continuing to improve labour legislation.
The Social Democratic Party presented its programme as a series of commitments to the electorate with regard to social security, tax reform, health, education and agriculture. Under the heading of "a state to serve the people", the programme includes a point entitled "employment and vocational training" in which it proposes state intervention in order to:
- increase the freedom of collective bargaining;
- strengthen the role of the general labour inspectorate in preventing accidents;
- support the introduction of new forms of work, namely part-time and home-based work;
- launch programmes to combat accidents at work and an action plan to fight child labour;
- introduce tax incentives to promote the recruitment of women, the creation of businesses that will provide jobs and local job-creation initiatives in conjunction with non-governmental organisations;
- create "observatories" for sectors at risk; and
- make vocational training more dynamic in order to increase employability and adaptability.
The Communist Party proposes furthering economic and social development through a policy based on promoting stable employment while respecting workers' rights. It also proposes a rise in real wages to safeguard and increase the share of wages in national earnings, and staged increases in the national minimum wage. The PCP is in favour of a progressive reduction in weekly working hours without wage reductions. It also favours: abandoning the outgoing Socialist Party government's "labour package" of employment law reforms (PT9903134N); a halt to the process of deregulation of labour relations; and a concerted effort to combat the general trend toward precarious employment.
The PCP's social and labour policy also provides that:
- collective rights such as collective bargaining, the right to organise and the rights of workers' commission s should be respected;
- substance should be given to the employees' right to participate in creating labour legislation;
- workers' representatives should participate in the management of state-run companies and unions should participate in the management of the social security system;
- the right to strike, as stipulated in the Portuguese Constitution, should be honoured;
- greater justice should prevail in cases of work-related accidents, occupational diseases, child labour and discrimination against women and young people at the workplace; and
- there should be a policy of vocational training and general tax reform to assure greater fairness and efficiency.
The election on 10 October saw the Socialists remaining as the largest party in parliament. However, they lost their overall majority and will now form a minority government.