First agreement on five weeks' paid holidays
After three months' bargaining, the annual revision of the national collective agreement covering banks and other credit institutions was concluded in April 1997. It is the first collective agreement in Portugal to grant five weeks' paid holidays, and also increases pay and improves maternity and paternity provisions
Trade union officials consider the new banking deal to be "certainly not the desired agreement, but the one possible". It is supported by the banking trade unions' socialist and social democrat tendencies, but contested by the communist tendency which believes that the banking sector's living standards are continuing to decrease; that the opportunity to obtain a 15th month's pay was wasted; and that it is unacceptable that the length of service rules should be disadvantageous to employees recruited after 1 January 1997 (the date on which the revised national agreement came into force). It is also important to stress that bargaining was carried out taking into account the elections within two of the unions involved - the South and Islands Banking Union (SBSI- Sindicatos Bancários do Sul e Ilhas) and the Banking Trade Unions of the Centre (Sindicatos Bancários do Centro), expected during April 1997 (PT9703111N). Many observers believe that these elections are very important, specially those for SBSI.
Trade union officials who have signed the agreement with the consent of their unions' general councils have focused on the following improvements:
- for the first time in Portugal, a collective agreement has introduced the right to 25 days' paid annual holiday (five weeks) for employees irrespective of age, length of service or work attendance;
- pay has been increased by 3.25% across the board in line with increases negotiated in other sectors. This percentage is above the rate of inflation projected for the current year. Certain other payments have been increased by a higher percentage (such as the daily subsistence benefit, which has been raised by 4.2%);
- retired bank workers will have now the right to housing credit, a benefit already granted to bank employees still at work, with lower interest rates compared with those of the general financial market; and
- clauses relating to maternity and paternity contracts have been improved; and
- in the future, bargaining on annual revisions to the agreement will always begin on 1 November.
The principal innovation in the agreement centres on approval for five weeks' annual paid holidays (that is, 25 weekdays, not including Saturdays, Sundays or holidays). Labour legislation establishes a general right to 22 weekdays which collective agreements normally just reflect. More recently, the Strategic Social Pact (Acordo de Concertação Estratégica), which was signed in December 1996 by the Government, the General Workers' Union (UGT) and the three employers' confederations for industry (CIP), commerce (CCP) and agriculture (CAP), anticipated an increase in the general legal entitlement to paid holidays from 22 to 24 weekdays per year, but based proportionately on days actually worked. This amendment has not taken place yet.
For workers in the public sector, Decree-Law No. 101-A/96, of 26 July 1996, laid down the following normal annual holidays:
- 22 weekdays for workers up to 39 years of age;
- 23 weekdays for workers up to 49;
- 24 weekdays for workers up to 59; and
- 25 weekdays for workers aged 60 and over.