Improving the transposition of the EC collective redundancies Directives in Portugal

Download article in original language : PT9712157NPT.DOC

The Government has recently presented a bill aimed at completing the introduction into Portuguese law of the amendments introduced by Directive 92/56/EC into the system of regulation of collective redundancies established by Directive 75/129/EEC.

Up until now, Portuguese legislation has not fully reflected the changes introduced by the 1992 EC Directive (92/56/EC) amending the 1975 Directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to collective redundancies (75/129/EEC). The Government has therefore in late 1997 prepared a bill to be submitted to Parliament, having listened to the opinions of the social partners legally represented on the Council for Social Concertation (Comissão Permanente de Concertação Social) of the Economic and Social Council (Conselho Económico e Social) and not having encountered any serious objections to its proposals.

These Directives had already largely been transposed into Portuguese law through Decree-Law No. 64-A/89, of 22 February 1989, and subsequent legislation. However, under the Directives, the information that the employer is obliged to provide to workers' representatives must include mention of the period during which dismissals are to be carried out and the method that is to be used for calculating any redundancy payment, if it is not the same as the one included in national laws and established practices. Portuguese law does not yet include provisions on these specific aspects. Nor, in the case of a collective redundancy process, does it provide for the possibility of the employers' and workers' representative structures making use of the services of an expert at their negotiation meetings (although this does in fact frequently happen in practice).

The aim of the bill being presented by the Government is to plug these gaps. It has not met any serious criticism from the social partners. The Government is therefore expected to present it to Parliament for approval, and it should be passed without any major amendments.

In Portugal, the legal process for collective redundancies is frequently accompanied in practice by "social plans", whenever enterprises seek to reduce the number of workers. These social plans pave the way for early retirement, redundancy payments that are higher than those provided for by law, redeployment or transfer of the workers to other companies in the same economic group. Large and medium-sized enterprises have sought in this way to reduce their workforces through an internal agreement with the workers that are to be dismissed or reclassified. This does not amount to a general rule in employment relationships, but there has been a notable and significant trend towards the adoption of these practices in recent years.

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