Strikes in Portugal WithPortugal
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Strikes in Portugal
How and what the Portuguese demand

Strikes in Portugal, often covering the entire country's territory, are a common phenomenon that you can't immediately get used to.

From personal observations

Only the big lucky one didn't face a strike in one form or another. Even yesterday, a friend called me, stunned by the fact that she had forgotten about the transport strike: there was no electric train, and she couldn't get to the meeting by any means. Or, for example, the son's class teacher makes an email newsletter in the evening that there will be a teachers' strike tomorrow and, perhaps, the school will be closed, but this is not certain. Therefore, I sent my son in the morning with a check, and yes, the school was closed. The same story with kindergartens, school canteens, medical institutions, airports, and other institutions that we sometimes need to get to (even if you are pre-booked for that day and time, there is no chance).


How to avoid inconvenience as much as possible

The only thing that will save you from getting into an embarrassing situation is to try to follow the news on the Internet or, as a respectable citizen, to buy a newspaper in the morning at a newsstand. And to be completely meticulous, before traveling somewhere, familiarize yourself with the website of the department providing the service - there will definitely be an announcement with all the details.

But it would be best if you didn't worry because not everything is so scary: a strike cannot happen suddenly. It must indeed be announced within the deadlines set by the state - 5 working days in ordinary organizations and 10 working days before the start of it in case of a strike in companies or institutions created to meet urgent public needs. Furthermore, they should provide a minimum set of services during the strike. For example, instead of 10 trips a day, public transport should operate at least trips in the morning and evening so that people can get to work and home.


Usually, the date and time of the beginning and end of the event are specified, although there are options for indefinite strikes. Such as among teachers in December, but this is not typical. It turns out quite funny with schools - in the same school, moreover, in the exact parallel, teachers of one class can go on strike, and others don't; one school in the same city will be open, and another will go on strike. By the way, today, teachers across the country are fighting to retire after 36 years in school, raise salaries and show more respect for the profession, and a month earlier, there was a nationwide strike in Lisbon underfunded education for next year, including in the budget. These strikes were initiated by the Portuguese National Federation of Teachers (Federação Nacional de Professores).


The fact is that the strike is an integral part of the everyday life of the Portuguese as other freedoms of European civilization, and, honestly speaking, they (the Portuguese) deftly use their right to express their opinion and defend their rights. Quite often and quite successfully.

Brief historical background

Let's briefly go through the history of Portugal. First, we will see that the first strikes among workers began in the middle of the 19th century as a form of fight against slave labor conditions, and at the beginning of the 20th century (in 1910), the Provisional Government issued the first law recognizing the right to strike. Still, it was so unfriendly to the strikers and so loyal to the employer that at some point, the government was forced to cancel it, but it was replaced by the Salazar decree of September 1933, number nº 23 050 (abolishing unions and significantly making it difficult for workers to fight for their rights), it got even worse. As a result of the issuance of this decree, a "revolutionary" strike broke out and spread to the whole country on January 18, 1934. This was followed by years of a general European process of confrontation between the labor movement and dictatorships that raged in Europe, which, associated with the end of the era of Salazar's tyranny, led to a thaw in the regulation of labor relations and the introduction of new, more civilized regulations. Now labor relations are regulated by the modern labor code of the Portuguese Republic (Código do Trabalho).

Some statistics

And in Portugal, there is an additional regulator Direção Geral do emprego e das relações de trabalho, which is a service of the central apparatus of the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security (Ministério do Trabalho, Solidariedade e Segurança Social). Still, at the same time, it has autonomy. It monitors labor relations and prevents collective labor conflicts, supporting the determination of state policy in labor relations and conditions of employment and vocational training. Like any state structure in Portugal, this machine is bureaucratic beyond measure, not maneuverable enough, and, at first glance, not very effective - but it exists, which is a good sign. The regulator, by the way, closely monitors the number of strikes and industry statistics and publishes annual reports about it (for those who are very interested, you can even find monthly reports on their website and archival data).


I was curious about which industries are the most dissatisfied, and this is what I found out. According to the calculations of the directorate (pic.) it turns out the following:

  • the most restless industry in Portugal is Transportation - they account for as much as a quarter of all strikes (25%);
  • the second one in the ranking of the dissatisfied are the clerks of the administrative institutions;
  • on the podium for third place in almost equal percentages, 12% and 11%, respectively, are Manufacturing, Public Administration, Defense, and Critical Social Security.

Recent major strikes

Of the recent significant strikes, one cannot fail to note the regular strikes of the Portuguese railways Comboios De Portugal, which were initiated by the Sindicato Nacional dos Maquinistas dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses (SMAQ) (the National Union of Portuguese Railways Machinists), which significantly complicates the movement of "pedestrians". This is how, for example, that serviços mínimos looks like. During the last strike, my unlucky girlfriend got on the route Figueira da Foz - Quimbra: 2 trains early in the morning and 3 trains from 18.00 to 20.00. From this example, it is clear that those who were going to and from work have a chance to leave, and idle citizens on a free schedule are free to stay at home or use alternative modes of transport.


In the summer of 2022, aviation industry workers were furious - they made a mess for 3 whole days at 10 national airports in the country, receiving a considerable number of domestic and international flights.


It is also worth paying attention to the fact that in addition to unions organizing strikes "on schedule", ordinary people all together also defend their rights by going out into the streets. For example, a week before the parliamentary vote on the country's budget for 2023, thousands of Portuguese went to the streets of Lisbon and Porto, protesting against rising inflation, as well as demanding a 10% medium-term salary increase and setting the minimum salary at 800 euros instead of the current 705 euros. By the way, the result of this event, at the time of writing this article, was a compromise - from January 1, 2023, the minimum salary increased by 55 euros and became equal to 760 euros.

There is also less "consumer" unrest, like the Climate strike in September 2019. Youth students and adults who joined them tried to draw the government's attention to the need to take measures in the field of ecology, environmental protection, and the preservation of the planet as a whole.


Summing up, a strike in Portugal is not some act of disturbing public order. It is an everyday toolkit for the people's dialogue with the country's government for the benefit of everyone living there. Every resident of Portugal has the right to have their voice heard. Therefore, no one here is surprised and, even more so, angry at the inconvenience caused by the strikes because today, they express their opinion, and tomorrow there may come a moment when everyone will need to speak out to defend their fundamental rights and improve their life.

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