TROIKA impositions must stop! UGT Portugal on the failure of austerity policies
Carlos Silva, UGT Portugal General Secretary addressed the joint ITUC/IMF Panel in Washington DC on 18 June 2014.
He explained the difficulties faced by the labour movement in Portugal aver since the onset of Troika policies and the dramatic consequences of imposed austerity policies on Industrial Relations, worker’s rights, and Portuguese society at large.
The Adjustment Programme, applied during the last three years and set to continue for some while, brought about dramatic changes and sacrifices from the Portuguese people. Cuts in wages, cuts in social benefits, cuts in unemployment benefits, cuts in pensions and dramatic cuts in jobs are some of the mentioned figures from Carlos Silva.
The most difficult and unacceptable development has been the reformulation of governmental responsibilities and the overhaul of the Welfare State. These developments were even judged unconstitutional by the Portuguese Constitutional Court but were implemented nonetheless.
Social Dialogue in Portugal took a strong hit. Collective Bargaining was weakened and UGT Portugal agreed to a recent labour law reform to mark its willingness to re-engage in meaningful social dialogue, strengthen collective bargaining and regain some of the trade union victories that were stripped away from workers through Troika imposed adjustment measures.
Collective bargaining was effectively minimised and collective agreements’ extensions were suspended. The trust that is needed for social dialogue is lacking. Troika policies translated into a drop from over 2 million workers covered by Collective Agreements in 2008 to less than 200 000 workers in 2013.
Economic growth prospects are dramatically low. Private investment is insufficient. Unemployment has reached intolerable levels and disproportionately affects the youth, who is emigrating due to lack of alternatives. The risk of poverty and exclusion has significantly increased.
In his address, Carlos Silva asked the panel how to exit this downward spiral of ineffective adjustment measures that cost democracy and sustainable developments prospects dearly.
The Troika and international lenders did not leave the Portuguese people any choice. The imposition of adjustment measures has damaged the labour movement significantly but it has also meant the reinterpretation of democratic institutional processes. Austerity has not worked and we need to instigate a change of policy to regain some hope and pride to re-engage in meaningful industrial relations and social dialogue.
Carlos Silva’s speech is annexed.