Portugal: Latest working life developments – Q2 2016

The re-introduction of four holidays and the 35-hour week in the public sector, as well as concerns about job precariousness and unemployment, are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Portugal in the first quarter of 2016.

Re-instatement of national holidays and the 35-hour week in the public sector

During the second quarter of 2016, two significant laws were adopted. Law No. 8/2016 (PDF) replaced four holidays that had been abolished in 2013 (those of 26 May, 5 October, 1 November, and 1 December) and Law No. 18/2016 (PDF) re-established the 35-hour week as standard for the public sector. This latter measure had been demanded by all the Portuguese trade unions, however, the employer confederations are against it, arguing that this measure represents added costs for employers.

Slight recovery in collective bargaining 

In the first semester of 2016, the number of collective agreements in the private sector increased by 17.7% and the number of workers covered increased by 21.3% compared with the same period in 2015. Nevertheless the number of workers covered is still much less than the number covered until 2011.

300 agreements in public sector come into force

In the first four months of 2016, 322 collective agreements were concluded in the public sector. This extremely high number of agreements, mostly between unions and local administrations, had been signed in the years since 2014 but had been blocked by the centre-right government. However, the agreements finally came into force when the Constitutional Court ruled that blocking them was unconstitutional. Most of the provisions regard the return to the 35-hour week in local administration.

Dock workers’ union reaches deal 

Industrial action lasting three years by the Portuguese Dock Workers’ Union (STEC) was suspended on 26 May. The dispute was between STEC and the port operators, and involved a ban on overtime work and a refusal to handle cargo if movement of that cargo was undertaken by non-port workers or road hauliers. The union suspended the action after agreeing to a new collective agreement providing for:

  • the limitation of temporary agency work and the integration of temporary agency workers in regular contracts;
  • recognition of skills and career development;
  • redefinition of wage scales.

Concerns over job precariousness and unemployment

The statistical bulletin from June 2016 (PDF), published by the Cabinet for Strategy and Planning (GEP), showed a slight decrease in the unemployment rate. This peaked again in the first quarter of 2016. Unemployment particularly affects young people and those with a higher level of education; between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 there were more than 4,400 unemployed people with a higher education, representing an increase of 3.7%. The unemployment of people with basic and secondary level of education decreased by 16% and 7% respectively.

Data from Statistics Portugal (INE) about income trends in Portugal in the past 20 years reveal that the income of young people diverged from the national average, increasing 65% between 1989 and 2009, 15 percentage points below the average.

Additionally, between 2009 and 2013 the average monthly earnings of young employees decreased; those aged 25–29 lost 6% of their average monthly earnings and those aged 30–34 lost 9%.

Differences in time use by men and women 

Paid work and unpaid care work was a relevant issue during this quarter. According to the preliminary results of the National survey on time use by men and women (PDF) men spend, on average per week, two hours more than women on paid work (42 hours and 55 minutes compared with 40 hours and 47 minutes, respectively). The survey was presented on 28 June and promoted by the Centre for Studies for Social Intervention (CESIS) in collaboration with the Commission for Equality in Labour and Employment (CITE). Furthermore, a fixed schedule is the predominant form of working time organisation for men (68.2%) and women (74.1%), followed by shift work (13.5% of women and 16.1% of men).

The results of the study, Work organisation and working time arrangements (PDF), show that a large proportion of the employed population needs to change their working times occasionally (less than every month) due to work demands. Women change their times less frequently than men (72.6% against 65.0% of men).

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