Collective bargaining trends over the first half of 1997

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Official figures published in Portugal reveal that almost 200 collective agreements were signed in the first half of 1997. Negotiated pay increases average about 3.6% a year, and other terms and conditions covered include working time and flexible rostering.

According to data published by the Ministry for Training and Employment, 47 collective agreements were signed during the first quarter of 1997 (PT9704113F) and 144 during the second quarter, making a total of 191. The number of workers covered was 336,035 and 402,142 respectively, amounting to a total of 738,177.

The majority (139) were association agreement s (contratos colectivos), that is, agreements concluded between unions and employers' associations, as opposed to the remainder (52) which were company-level agreement s (acordos de empresa) and multi-employer agreement s (acordos colectivos), that is, signed by unions and one or several companies. Most of the collective agreements covered the manufacturing industry (62% of the total in the first quarter and 48.6% of the total over the whole first half).

Unions affiliated to the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, CGTP) and those affiliated to the General Workers' Union (União Geral dos Trabalhadores, UGT) signed virtually the same number of agreements - CGTP signed 80, UGT signed 83, and 20 were signed jointly. Eight were signed by independent unions.

Pay issues

Nearly all the agreements update pay rates (or, when first-time agreements, set them). The average increase in pay rates is 3.6%. In cases where pay rates had previously been in force for only a year, the increase registered was 3.7% (such agreements covered 78.6% of the total number of workers under consideration during this period).

Apart from pay rates, bonuses and benefits were also revised. These included meal allowances, length-of-service benefits, shift supplements, travel expenses and cash-handling allowances. Holiday and Christmas bonuses are set on a standard basis and undergo increases according to the percentage increase in pay rates.

Non-wage related issues

In over half the agreements published, the bulk of clauses not related to wages has remained unchanged. Agreements that did lead to changes in non-wage related clauses (53.2% in the first quarter and 38.9% in the second quarter) deal primarily with the number of working hours per week, flexibility of work rosters, job gradings and occupational functions. Though to a lesser extent, changes were also made in other areas such as health and safety at the workplace, extra benefits to complement social security and limits on part-time working.


The basic collective bargaining framework has remained essentially the same. Agreed pay policy recommendations exert a strong influence on negotiations. Increases in collectively agreed pay rates rarely stray far from the average increases set out in the Strategic Social Pact signed in December 1996. The same is true for agreements signed by independent unions and those unions within the CGTP (which was not party to the signing of the Social Pact). The drop in the inflation rate has permitted slight wage rises as a result of collective bargaining.

The process of collective bargaining continues to be centred around association agreements (sector or subsector, national, multi-district or district-level). Company-level agreements and multi-employer agreements remain in the minority. "Articulated" bargaining - where certain topics are negotiated at one level and others at other levels - is non-existent, so both union and management strategies favour sector or subsector bargaining.

Lack of articulation amongst the various levels of bargaining may also be the cause of the somewhat "conservative" nature of the non-wage related portion of collective agreements. That is why few significant or widespread changes in issues not related to pay have been noted. Those that do take place are largely the result of legislative prompting, such as Law 21/96 of 23 July 1996, which deals with reducing the work week to 40 hours and flexible rostering.

The flow of collective bargaining over the first half of 1997 was less than that registered over the same period in 1996 when 227 collective agreements covering some 1,094,400 workers were published. This relative decline should have been made up in July 1997 given the number of agreements then submitted for publication (67), some of which were large-scale agreements for the metalworking, textiles and hotel industries. (H Nascimento Rodrigues, UAL)

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