Associations warn of chaos as port workers strike

  • Lusa
  • 30 December 2022

According to the associations, users of ports with greater capacity are already diverting cargo to Spain and other ports.

The Associação Empresarial de Portugal (AEP), along with six other entities, has alerted the government to the blockade on imports and exports caused by the strike at the ports, calling for an end to the strike and the “economic bloodletting” at the ports.

“We write as workers, operators and customers of the Port of Leixões, alerted and deeply concerned with the national strike of employees of port administrations, which is currently blocking and paralysing the import and export of goods,” said the open letter sent to the government and seen by Lusa on Thursday.

The document in question was sent to the prime minister, António Costa, finance minister, Fernando Medina, and the then minister for infrastructure, Pedro Nuno Santos, by AEP, the Leixões Port Community, the Commercial Association of Porto, the Association of Portuguese Shipping Agents, the National Association of Companies Concessionaires of Port Terminals, the Association of Freight Forwarders of Portugal and the Association of Port Operators of Leixões.

According to the associations, users of ports with greater capacity are already diverting cargo to Spain and other ports.

However, most operators “do not have that possibility”, meaning they were paralysed.

“The situation is particularly serious in the Port of Leixões since its physical characteristics dictate its total closure, without ships able to enter or leave,” they pointed out.

These associations also noted that the port authorities “do not have the autonomy” to resolve the claims presented, particularly in terms of pay, which they said could only be dealt with by the ministry.

In the document, they also noted that port authorities annually distribute dividends to the state, noting that, according to the law, fees are used to improve port services.

As such, they considered that it was the government’s “duty, obligation and responsibility to ensure the correct application of these fees and the smooth running of the ports.

For the seven entities, it is “urgent to ensure the suspension” of the strike and stop the “economic bloodletting” that occurs in all national ports.

“We appeal to the sense of responsibility and duty of the parties so that dialogue is immediately resumed and solutions found,” they concluded.

The National Union of Workers of Port Administrations (SNTAP) has called for a multi-day strike, which began on 22 December and runs until 30 January and covers the ports of mainland Portugal, Madeira and the Azores.

According to the document sent to the government, regional secretariats and port administrations, workers at mainland and Madeira ports will be on strike “from 00:00 on 22 December until 24:00 on 23 December”, “from 00:00 on 27 December until 24:00 on 29 December” and “from 00:00 to 24:00 on 02, 06, 09, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27 and 30 January”.

The union accuses the port administrations of a “total lack of availability” to talk about the proposed wage review for 2023, with the SNTAP having made “several requests for meetings” that went unanswered, “namely by the Sines and Lisbon administrations.

The workers’ representatives also point to the “persistence of serious situations” of violation of legislation and the collective labour agreement in force, including a case that they classify as “labour harassment” of a worker at the port of Sines.