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Portugal  Portugal

Key Facts

Population10,542,398
Collective Bargaining Coverage 92%
Proportion of Employees in Unions 19%
Principal Level of Collective Bargaining

industry

Workplace Representation

union – works councils exist in theory but less frequently in practice

Board-level Representation

yes: state-owned companies

Company Board Structure

monistic

Sources: see individual country sections; where a range of figures has been quoted, the lower number has been taken

Trade Unions

Lack of precise data makes it difficult to give figures of trade union membership in Portugal and there is a large gap between the totals provided by the unions and the union density estimates of the government. There are two main trade union confederations, the CGTP-IN and the UGT, whose relationship was initially marked by conflict rather than co-operation, but has now improved. Trade union structures are complex with almost 350 autonomous individual unions.

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Collective Bargaining

Negotiations at industry level, between employers associations and the unions, have in the past been the most important element in Portugal’s collective bargaining arrangements. Company level agreements cover many fewer employers. Portugal has traditionally had a high level of collective bargaining coverage – partially through the extension of agreements by the government. However, this high level is under threat because of changes to the system under the pressure of the economic crisis.

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Workplace Representation

Although in theory there are two channels of workplace representation of employees for most issues – through the workplace union representatives and through an elected works council, in practice works councils are relatively rare. They normally only exist in large companies where unions are strong. The rights of both are limited to information and consultation, with no opportunity to block management decisions.

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Board-level Representation

There are legal provisions giving Portuguese employees the right to elect representatives on the governing bodies of state-owned companies and other public bodies. However, the way that these provisions have been implemented means that they only have a consultative role. There is no employee board level representation in private companies.

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European-level Representation

All Portuguese members of bodies concerned with European Works Councils or European Companies are chosen in the same way – appointed by agreement with the works council and the unions, or by the unions if there is no works council, and they represent sufficient employees.

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Health and Safety Representation

The health and safety representation of employees in Portugal is provided by specially elected health and safety representatives. They should meet the employer at least once a month and have the right to be consulted in writing on a range of issues at least twice a year. Joint employer/employee health and safety committees can be set up where there is a collective agreement to that effect.

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Financial Participation

The most important form of employee financial participation in Portugal is profit-sharing. Share ownership is less widespread. Basically, employee financial participation can be traced back to the privatization process, especially between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s. One of the policy objectives of the privatization process was to allow a wide participation of Portuguese citizens in the ownership of privatized firms.Today, employee financial participation no longer seems to be very important in the public debate.

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