Portuguese companies have unions


According to the trade unions, there are 1.3 million union members in Portugal, but the 2006 Green Paper on industrial relations in Portugal noted that the number of trade unionists and the level of union density are controversial. The Green Paper itself did not give an estimate of union density in Portugal.1 The White Paper on Industrial Relations, published at the end of 2007, estimated the union density in Portugal at 18.4%.2 In the ICTWSS database on the number of union members, a similar union density (19.3%) is indicated (as of 2010).3 This means that around 550,000 workers are unionized - less than half the number reported by the unions. EIRO estimates from 2013 put a total of between 700,000 and 800,000 union members in Portugal and that the average union density is likely below 20%.4

There are two major trade union federations in Portugal, the CGTP-IN and the UGT. The larger of the two, the CGTP-IN, announced at its January 2012 Congress that its affiliates had 614,088 members. According to its General Secretary João Proença (interview from November 2010), the UGT has around 500,000 members. There are also a few smaller unions that are not affiliated to any of the major union confederations, with a total of probably 50,000 members.


As mentioned earlier, union numbers are well above the union density recorded in the 2007 White Paper, and outside observers believe that union membership is actually much lower - around 500,000 for the CGTP-IN and 200,000 for the CGTP-IN the UGT. In order to determine the level of support enjoyed by each confederation, the survey for the 2007 White Paper asked respondents to indicate which trade union organization they were most sympathetic to. 21% of the respondents named CGTP-IN unions, around twice as many those who headed UGT unions. Nonetheless, “sympathy” is not to be equated with union membership.



The complexity of the Portuguese trade union system is due in part to the authoritarian corporatist regime that ruled for a long time and up until the April 1974 revolution. The 2006 Green Paper shows that in 2005 a total of 421 trade union organizations were registered with the Ministry of Labor: 348 trade unions - many of which are not national but only local -, 27 industry associations, 36 district associations and seven union confederations , including the two largest, CGTP-IN and UGT. Even if 50 of these registered trade union organizations were no longer active at the time and some things have changed since then, the trade union system in Portugal remains extremely fragmented. As of December 31, 2010, the Ministry of Labor's database contained 490 trade union organizations.5

For example, the CGTP-IN, according to its website, has 80 formal member unions and 33 unions linked to the CGTP-IN through the single union movement MSU (Movimento Sindical Unitário). Many of its member unions are not national associations, but rather associations at the regional level or at the level of individual districts or groups of districts. However, the largest of these, the STAL Local Government Employees' Union, with 56,000 members, is organized at the national level. Since the early 1990s, the CGTP-IN has made significant strides in streamlining its structures. The number of its member unions was reduced by mergers between 1993 and 1999 from 150 to 107 and further to 88 by 2008. The 10 branch associations and their affiliated individual unions now offer a much clearer organizational structure. With the exception of the finance and energy sectors, the CGTP-IN represents the majority of all organized workers and has its strongholds in the manufacturing and public sectors.


For its part, the UGT comprises a mixture of branch and professional unions. Most of its 49 member unions are nationwide, some are also organized in specific areas, such as B. the bank clerks and teachers unions. Banking sector workers are organized in North, South, Central and Island unions. There are also two trade union federations that are formally affiliated to the UGT and include dock workers and education unions, as well as four federations that are not affiliated but whose members are predominantly the UGT unions. The UGT also includes a trade union confederation for managers and executives (FENSIQ). Most UGT members are employed in public and private service companies, particularly in the banking and insurance industries. SBSI, the banking union for southern Portugal, has more than 50,000 members on its website, making it the largest union in the UGT.



In addition to the unions that are affiliated with or work with the major trade union confederations, there are around 100 other unions. Some of them have joined together in smaller alliances such as the USI, but most of them have no affiliations.



The trade union confederation CGTP-IN was founded immediately after the revolution of 1974 and at that time had close ties with the communist party. The UGT was founded in 1978 as a political alternative to the CGTP-IN by trade unions which - according to their own statements - were close to the social democratic and liberal-conservative parties. As a result, relations between the two trade union confederations were very tense at the beginning. The situation has improved significantly since the late 1980s, although there are still clear differences between them.



Their divergent responses to the changes in industrial relations and labor market and social policies introduced by the revised Labor Code in 2009 and their positions on the various austerity packages since 2010 have clearly shown these differences. CGTP-IN and UGT rejected the proposals and called for a general strike on November 24, 2010 for the first time since 1988. A second joint general strike was organized exactly one year later, on November 24, 2011, following new cuts. After the plan to extend working hours was withdrawn, the UGT signed an agreement with the government and employers in early 2012. The CGTP-IN, on the other hand, has not given up its negative stance and has continued to campaign against the planned measures, with the support of some UGT unions and federations.



It is difficult to get an idea of ​​the evolution of union membership in Portugal because of the lack of precise information. It seems clear, however, that the two largest union confederations suffered membership losses in the 1990s. While membership has increased in certain sectors, particularly in the public sector, the downsizing in manufacturing over the past few years has reduced membership. CGTP-IN and UGT both adopted recruitment programs at their recent congresses; The CGTP-IN has set itself the goal of gaining 100,000 new members within four years.