From the November 21 demonstration to the concentrations scheduled for this Tuesday, what continues to separate the unions from the security forces and the Government?
The big difference is in the posture of the Ministry of Internal Administration, both in the way it started to face the dialogue with the unions, and in the content that it has led to these conversations.
The social and political reach of the November 21 demonstration, showing unequivocally that something has to be done to restore stability and capacity to the security forces, seems to have managed to unlock some negotiations. But it’s not enough yet.
On the one hand, unions are showing less and less tolerance for broken promises, on the other hand, it seems obvious that the area of security still lacks the money it needs. It is not enough, for example, for what the police want most, which is why the protests continue.
The following issues will be discussed until March 2020. In some cases, the two parties have already reached consensus, but in others, an agreement seems difficult.
- Payment of unpaid supplements on vacation
The problem goes back to 2011, to the last Government of José Sócrates, when it was decided to stop paying on vacation, the supplements that the police receive during the rest of the year. After a long legal battle to recover that payment, the Association of Police Professionals (ASPP) managed, in October 2018, for the Supreme Administrative Court to give it reason. A court order that, even so, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has only now agreed to comply with.
In addition to paying for supplements again during the holidays, he will also pay back payments over the next four years, at a rate of 25% of the debt per year. Police will receive these funds in March and October each year. The unions demanded that the debt be paid off all at once, but ended up accepting the proposed timetable, and thus closing this file.
- Security Forces Multiannual Plan
It became Minister Eduardo Cabrita's main banner, not only within the scope of the State Budget under construction for 2020, but for the entire legislature.
The minister promises to incorporate 10,000 elements in the PSP, GNR and Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), until 2023. The exact contours of the measure will only be known when the plan is approved by the Council of Ministers, but it is already presented as the solution for the chronic shortage problem. On the way, it also helps to rejuvenate strength, and to create the concept of shared services.
PSP unions and GNR associations say that as spectacular as the announcement may seem, this is the least the Government can do to keep forces operational. By age limit alone, by 2023 3,600 elements will leave the PSP, while the other 3,300 will leave the GNR. In this case too, and even though the details are still very few, the unions admit to accepting the Government's plan, and also to close this file.
- Compensation supplements
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet said exactly what it intends to do, but everything indicates that it will finally put into practice the old idea of reorganizing the list of supplements that exist in the two security forces, and whenever possible to standardize them.
At issue are not increases, but only their redefinition. Associations and unions have already submitted proposals, and are now waiting to see.
- New Law for the Programming of Infrastructure and Equipment of the Security Forces
It is part of the negotiating calendar presented by MAI, but the concrete proposal will only be known at the meeting scheduled for February 13.
At issue is the renewal of the law that is in force (2017-2021), and many of the demands of unions and associations pass through it. Police officers complain about facilities, equipment, and vehicles, and investment in these areas is crucial to bringing positions closer.
- Occupational safety and health
In the calendar proposed by the Ministry of Administration, the conversation on safety and health at work with the unions is scheduled for March 5.
Even though they are not part of the most media claims, police want to negotiate improvements in these areas.
Themes outside the negotiations
Outside the business plan proposed by Eduardo Cabrita's office are the two main demands of the PSP and GNR professionals, which is why the protests continue, and threaten to repeat themselves.
- Remuneration update
It is the question that most divides the two parts. PSP and GNR professionals complain about the remuneration table they have, especially in the early career indices. Criticism rose in tone in this change of legislature, because in the previous one they saw improvements in almost all other careers in the area of justice and security, such as the magistrates of the Public Ministry, the Judiciary Police and the Foreigners and Borders Service.
If 2020 is not the year of these policemen, then Eduardo Cabrita is almost certain to have no rest from these professionals. The MAI did not include the issue in the five points of the current negotiating calendar, and in the meetings already held it made clear that it has no money to talk about salary improvements.
It is one of the main and oldest demands, but it remains outside the Government's plans. Despite the recommendation approved by a majority in the Assembly of the Republic, for two years now, the Ministry of Internal Administration still does not consider its implementation.
To the unions, the Deputy Secretary of State and Home Affairs has already said that this issue is not on the table, at least in this negotiating calendar.
It will continue to be an important point of disagreement between the parties, not only because the Ministry ignores a recommendation from Parliament, but above all because day by day it is showing that the risk of this activity is real. The unions do not give up on this point and, as long as it remains to be done, it will always be the subject of protests.
Unions and Zero Movement separated in Tuesday's protests
Contrary to what happened on November 21, there is now no centralized protest in Lisbon, but more than a dozen spread across the continent and Islands.
The organizations that called the last demonstration chose, this time, to divide the protest in three: in Lisbon, in front of the Ministry of Finance in Terreiro do Paço, starting at 16:00; in Braga, from 5:30 pm, next to the stadium that will receive the first semi-final of the League Cup Final Four between Braga and Sporting; and in Faro, in the garden next to the city's Marina, starting at 4 pm.
The Zero Movement, of an inorganic nature – which was born and raised on social networks – this time marked its own protests. From 9:30 am, it promises to be at all airports in the country, both on the continent and on the Islands. In this case, an indefinite protest is announced.