Mark Bergfeld reports on unofficial strike action hitting healthcare call centres in Portugal:
Today 400 workers across two call centres at “Saúde 24” (Health24) – a telemedicine service – have been on strike. They are taking unofficial action because they don’t have proper working contracts (“falsos recibos verdes”). The service will stop for the next 24 hours and workers are protesting outside the companies’ headquarters.
In the light of continued austerity measures in Portugal, this public service has been partially privatised. The winner of the government bid was a consortium of the French call center giant Teleperformance and a Portuguese company, Optimus (which belongs to Portugal’s second richest man). Last month management announced a wage reduction from 8,75€ an hour to 7€ an hour. In some cases the wages could fall below 4 euros. They tried to force workers, who have to pay for their own fiscal and social security contributions, to sign up to accepting the reduction in wages.
Instead of accepting this, workers wrote their own statement demanding negotiations and refusing the wage cut. 300 out of 400 workers signed! They went a step further and demanded a labour inspection, meetings with the Surgeon General, the minister of health, with all parliamentary groups and with the health commission in Parliament. They were met with hostility for everyone apart from the Surgeon General, the Bloco de Esquerda and the Communist Party (PCP). They turned to the media and publicly exposed the threats of dismissal made by the company.
In the meantime, the company has already informed 5 people that they were no longer needed. When I spoke to Tiago, a nurse with 9 years of experience in emergency rooms he told me “our necks have the rope around them but we remain firm”.
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