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Strikes in Portugal May Impact You
A daily occurrence...
I realize I am an outsider, ignorant of the history of unions in Portugal. I appreciate that I don’t fully grasp many aspects of Portuguese culture and social norms. So perhaps my concerns are unfounded. Or perhaps, if you are hoping to apply for a visa in April you are in for some delays.
Friday, 17 March
I am writing this on the 17th of March.1 Most mornings I try to read the Portuguese newspaper, in Portuguese. While I can understand a number of the words, I am certain I often miss the full meaning. But I can tell you one thing for sure…nearly every public union is on strike today in some parts of Portugal. Teachers in Algarve…garbage collectors in Lisbon…hospital workers in Braga…train operators nearly everywhere…the list goes on and on.
If you think there’ve been a lot of strikes lately, you’re right. The 204 strike warnings issued in January alone were six times higher than 2021 and 2.5 times more than in the second-most strike-hit January of the past decade, 2020, Diário de Notícias reports. A widespread strike on Friday closed many schools and caused disruptions to health and public services, leaving some hospitals operating at the bare minimum, Público reports. Organisers, who are pushing for better pay in the public sector, said the strong showing was proof of discontent with the entire labour situation. Private sector nurses and rubbish collectors also went on strike last week. — Jorge Branco
Strike Days in Consulates
And today they announced that the long-anticipated strikes will extend to Portuguese Consulates in April. The rudimentary calendar I created above shows the days consulate workers intend to strike in April. If you have a visa application or interview planned on those days take note!
I first learned that consulate workers were planning to strike in December. A friend had been in Portugal as a tourist waiting for his visa to be approved. He was planning to fly back to the States to pick up his visa when a work stoppage was announced. He took a chance, flew back and the prior work stoppage was lifted. But this time, I am not so sure. The government must show some movement:
,,, the union felt “very badly” about the fact that all public administration workers in Portugal had a salary update, which was not applied to those working abroad….the strike will not go ahead unless the new exchange rate correction mechanism is published, the regulation of Camões institute workers abroad and the response to the trade union counter-proposal. - Rosa Teixeira Ribeiro
Please understand, I am not criticizing these workers or moaning about the fact that some foreign citizens’2 visa applications may be delayed. My research, though limited, suggests that many of the consulate workers are earning salaries only slightly more than typical Portuguese wages while working in US cities … e.g. New York, and San Francisco. Even at twice the average Portuguese wage, I can’t imagine anyone surviving in a major US city on €45,000. Compound this by fluctuating currency conversion and you have a real nightmare.
But what confounds me about this situation is how long these grievances are allowed to go on unresolved. Our Portuguese language teacher invited our class to participate in the public protest on Saturday (18 March). These Saturday events have been going on for several weeks throughout the country and seem to be growing in number. In response, I posed a question, “It seems that some of the teacher’s issues have been on the table for 6 or more years. How can you talk and negotiate on one issue without resolution for that long?”
While we spent 10 minutes of class time discussing the teachers’ grievances I never got an answer to my question. So I ask you, how is this possible? And what does it say about the future of this beautiful country? When will wages improve?3 Is the urgency I feel simply a reflection of my American conditioning?
Por favor, diga-me, beijinhos,
I need to write a number of posts as we have American visitors starting next week, and then travel with them to Italy for 10 days.
Meaning no offense to our state-side friends that are going through this process right now.
To come in line with other EU salaries, and to enable residents to afford to rent of buy real estate in Portugal.