Tim Bancroft-Hinchey: WORKERS FROM EASTERN EUROPE REQUIRED in PORTUGAL

AS PORTUGAL PREPARES FOR THE 2004 EUROPEAN FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP, WORKERS ARE NEEDED. THE PRIORITY : EASTERN EUROPEANS, CONSIDERED AS EXCELLENT WORKERS. Portugal won the campaign for the European Football Championship of 2004 and together with a series of works in the major cities of Lisbon and Oporto, this project requires an influx of at least 25,000 immigrant workers. Portugal prefers eastern Europeans because these workers are highly professional, being considered as excellent employees and do not create social problems. They keep themselves to themselves, work hard, save their money and go home to improve their lifestyle. It should be pointed out that the Portuguese have great respect for the cultures of eastern Europe and in many cases, workers in precarious conditions have been helped by local populations and the social services. Basically, eastern Europeans are welcome here. At present in Portugal, there are officially 20,000 workers from the east of Europe but unofficial figures are higher (maybe the double). Unfortunately for the workers concerned, the unofficial cases usually mean an involvement of mafia rings of traffickers, which charge thousands of dollars for placement in Portugal and often thereafter call on the workers at the end of every month to pay a “rent” from their salaries. The Portuguese authorities want to stop these practices because the workers from eastern Europe are highly respected, professionally and socially. Mota da Silva, the General-Inspector of Work from the Ministry of the Interior, recently launched a campaign to welcome workers from eastern Europe but within a legal framework : “ Only within a relationship of confidence can we improve working conditions for all of you,” he told a congress of workers from eastern Europe. “Your work is necessary for our companies,” he added, stating that “together with the trade unions and the public entities controlling works”, efforts would be made to arrange legal working conditions and guaranteed remuneration, based on officially recognised contracts of work. The Portuguese entities advise all those wishing to work in Portugal to present themselves to the official entities abroad, namely the Portuguese Embassies or Consulates. If this should be impossible, once in Portugal, there is a consumer rights organisation, DECO, which defends the rights of workers. Any complaints can be directed to this organisation, or the IGT (Inspecзгo Geral de Trabalho : General Works Inspection) or AICCOPN (Industrial Association of Civil Construction and Public Works in the North(of Portugal). The workers from eastern Europe are welcome here and the authorities are creating all conditions for them to come. What is important is that this is done in the conditions which guarantee workers’ rights and stability for the host employers.

Tim Bancroft-Hinchey Lisbon