Portuguese workers join European rallies for jobs

Download article in original language : PT9706126NPT.DOC

During May-June 1997, Portuguese trade unions took part in the rallies and days of action organised throughout the countries of the European Union in order to emphasise work and employment as prime concerns for future European policies

Portuguese trade unions participated in both the European day of action on the theme "Europe must work" called by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on 28 May 1997 (EU9704120N), and the demonstration against unemployment on 14 June, which ended with a rally in Amsterdam, where the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) was finishing its work (EU9706133N). This support has been followed up by several public expressions of concern about unemployment at a national level.

Portugal was represented in the rally held on 14 June by two unemployed people who joined in at the end, representing the Centro de Apoio aos Desempregados de Setúbal, created in 1987, which has been a member of the European Network of Unemployed Associations since 1990.

The Portuguese Prime Minister met the union confederations before the conclusion of the IGC. At that meeting, the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, CGTP) stated that labour has been insufficiently taken into account in recent social developments and has been submitted to macroeconomic policies that cause unemployment. The CGTP added that consideration of social issues will, furthermore, be delayed in the EU because some such decisions are still subject to a unanimous vote on the Council of Ministers.

The general secretary of the General Workers' Union (União Geral dos Trabalhadores, UGT) maintained that there have been some encouraging social developments in the EU following the successful introduction of the social policy Protocol into the Treaty, but that they are not sufficient. There are for example some questions still to be clarified, such as the extent of qualified majority voting on many issues of social rights. He also alluded to the need to include in the Treaty issues like collective rights in areas such as freedom of association, collective bargaining and union activity at a transnational level. The Treaty raises great hopes but there should be a number of ways to achieve them. At stake is the defence of a Social Europe characterised by jobs and social justice without marginalisation or insecure employment.

A high level of participation in the demonstrations organised by the ETUC on 28 May was noted as a mark of workers' commitment to the fight for jobs and social rights. CGTP and UGT organised European days of action in Portugal to draw attention to the need for the social rights which the ETUC believes to be of major importance. These actions focused on the point that growth and employment creation should not be overwhelmed by the argument for economic stability and that the IGC and discussion surrounding the Maastricht Treaty should examine the prospects for employment opportunities and the creation of quality jobs. These actions took place in Lisbon, with some further activities at local and regional level.

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