Precariousness and inequality in the world of work and social protection for all

From October 10th to 13th, 2019, in Alfragide - Amadora, a seminar took place on "Precariousness and inequality in the world of work and social protection for all", organized by LOC / MTC (Liga Operária Católica - Movimento de Trabalhadores Cristãos), supported by EZA and the European Union. Representatives of workers' organizations from Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Slovakia and Slovenia attended the seminar.

The opening session was attended by José Agostinho Marques, City Councilor for Culture of the Municipality of Amadora, João Paulo Branco, Member of the Board of EZA, and Américo Monteiro, National Coordinator of LOC / MTC.

The LOC / MTC coordinator welcomed the national and foreign participants as well as the organizations they represent, gave a brief overview of the situation of workers in Portugal and referred to some of the objectives of the seminar; João Paulo Branco, a member of the EZA Board, reported on the EZA activities, the situation in Europe and the importance of these seminars; The City Council of Amadora congratulated and thanked LOC / MTC for having selected the district of Amadora as a seminar venue. Amadora is the smallest district in Portugal (24 km2) and has 180,000 inhabitants from more than 100 nations. The city council briefly presented the employment and social situation of its community, in which there are many social problems, but no unemployment.

The speakers of the other sessions were: Frederico Cantante, PhD sociologist and senior researcher at the Collaborative Laboratory for Work, Employment and Social Protection; Wilfried Wienen, coordinator of the European Office of the KAB Germany; Vivalda Silva, trade union leader of STAD, the union for workers in the areas of surveillance services, reception, cleaning, domestic services and similar professions, Portugal, and member of the Executive Committee of the CGTP - General Association of Portuguese Workers; Maria del Pino Trejo Sanchez, teacher at the educational institute and head of HOAC, Spain and member of the HOAC training group.

In the first session, we reflected on the causes and consequences of the lack of social protection for workers and how this situation jeopardizes the European social model and society, especially the most vulnerable. Industrial relations have changed, emphasizing that the vision of a career is becoming less prevalent. The reasons for this are the difficulties of finding a stable job and the growth of faceless companies. The current and future challenges are more significant unemployment benefit, as more than 50% of the unemployed receive no benefits in Portugal; more generous social minimum benefits - human dignity; better regulation of work and social protection; closer relationships between older and younger people.

In the second session, we looked at the consequences of the devaluation of human labour and how it affects the lives of workers, reinforces the lack of social cohesion and has implications for social, national and European development. In this context, several glaring situations have been noted, even in the most developed countries of Europe, where many workers, even in large companies, operate under scandalous, almost slave-like conditions. More and more workers are turning to psychiatrists, and the use of antidepressants is on the increase, which is worrying as it is the result of precarious employment situations and constant pressure on workers. At the third meeting, at the round table, we became aware of what is happening in some European countries: in Germany, Spain, France, Slovenia, Slovakia and Portugal, many situations prevail that lead to social inequality and wage inequality. We have found that in all these countries, and certainly in many others, one of the most severe issues for the workforce is the uncertainty that manifests itself in various ways, such as: For example through new employment concepts as well as wage and social differences. Employees must be fully available, permanently connected to work, under pressure, but not assured of employment, deregulated hours and unpaid overtime.

The fourth session deepened the issues of precariousness, employment and inequality among workers in the cleaning of businesses, public facilities and households sectors. In this industry, especially among domestic workers, there is only a small union membership, many workers are not covered by social insurance and are therefore not entitled to unemployment or sickness benefits and holiday and Christmas bonuses.

In the fifth session, we tried to figure out how to act in society and collective decision-making, given the absence of collective bargaining and the consequent loss of collective bargaining rights practised by many governments in Europe with the support of employers' organizations. We emphasized the importance of workers' movements, especially trade unions, but also churches and their movements.

The participants of this seminar visited the new headquarters of the CGTP in Lisbon, where they were welcomed by three members of the trade union federation, who were able to find out about the situation of the many affiliated Lisbon trade unions and talked about the renouncement of collective bargaining which many governments in Europe with the support of Make employer organizations. Libério Domingues, the coordinator of this union federation and member of the Executive Committee of the CGTP-IN, was the speaker of this meeting.


Convinced that there are alternatives to the current situation and given the challenges ahead, the question arises of how we can ensure social and wage rights.

1. It is necessary to respond to individualism and tough competition with solidarity, with social responsibility and with the common good as a goal. There is an urgent need to reorganize human life and our sense of humanity. Our options for sustainable development must take into account the lives of the poorest and build a society based on them. For us, Christians, the poor are the way to Jesus Christ, the way to repentance. We must focus on them and adopt and share the forms of life and action that make us human.

2. The first important conclusion is that workers must organize and fight for their dignity, rights and solidarity for the rights of all.

3. We must fight all inequalities, including pay gaps, which reinforce asymmetries. It is a scandal that there are blatant wage differences within the   same company. There is also discrimination between men and women who occupy the same positions. It also affects larger companies that devour smaller companies to gain a monopoly. Situations of this kind are facilitated by political-commercial agreements and contribute to further weakening.

4. We must work to regulate work so that all sectors are covered by collective bargaining and that technology does not go hand in hand with abuse of privacy and increased workers' power. Precariousness and the lack of predictability of work are destroying the lives of workers, especially young people, robbing them of the future, leaving them vulnerable and delivering          them to "beneficiaries".

5. As a Christian labour movement, we will continue to demand that society rethink the person as a person and worker. But also the construction of Europe is in danger. We must defend the right to work and the conditions for collective action by workers, where trade unions play a vital role in the area of human rights. We want other organized workers' movements to focus on the poorest and most exploited workers, such as women and men.