Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Portugal

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Portugal, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 10,700,000
Capital: Lisbon
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The law protects trade union rights, but in practice collective bargaining and trade union meetings are often hampered. In March, striking teachers were harassed by the police.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The Constitution and the 2003 Labour Code recognise freedom of association. All workers, with the exception of members of the armed forces and some police forces, are allowed to form and join trade unions. The government has stated the need to encourage trade union participation amongst migrant workers.

In June, the social partners signed a tripartite agreement providing for a new system for industrial relations, employment policy and social protection. This agreement will influence the draft new Labour Code, prepared in line with the "flexicurity" concept (combining labour flexibility with job security).

Collective bargaining: Trade unions have the right to bargain collectively. While the 2003 Labour Code did not introduce any rules that would violate ILO standards, a few provisions did affect the balance of collective bargaining. Namely, according to the Code, collective agreements can supersede legislation, both when the agreement is more favourable for workers and when it is less favourable. Trade unions hope that this article will be revised during the upcoming Labour Code reform. The Code also stipulates that if a collective agreement is not renewed, it can cease to have legal effect.

Public service collective bargaining is defined as "appraisal and discussion" between trade unions and public administration with the view to arriving at consensus. These negotiations do not result in legally binding collective agreements. The Public Service Collective Bargaining Act restricts the scope of bargaining to pay and pay-related issues such as various welfare benefits. The law explicitly excludes from collective bargaining issues relating to the structure, assigned tasks and competence of the public administration.

Strikes and arbitration: The right to strike is guaranteed, and procedures for calling a strike are reasonable. Once a trade union has given notice of a strike, the employer is not allowed to hire additional labour to replace strikers. Contracting outside companies to do the work of striking workers is also prohibited. Wildcat strikes are prohibited and can result in workers' facing liability for damages. Compulsory arbitration is viewed as a mechanism of exceptional nature to be applied under strict conditions. The number of workers affected, the relevance of the dispute in terms of workers' protection, and the potential social and economic impacts of the conflict are taken into consideration. Arbitration can also be imposed for determining minimum services.

Trade union meetings: Trade unions have the right to access the work place. A 48-hours notice is required to organise a trade union meeting on the company premises and a six-hour notice should be given if a trade union representative not working in the company is going to be present. Trade union meetings during working hours are limited to 15 hours per year, but for workers these hours are considered as working time.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Teachers' strike: Hundreds of schools remained closed in March when teachers' unions called a strike against a new evaluation system for teachers that focused on their students' grades. Police harassed the unions and school heads were ordered to keep a record of the striking teachers.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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