By Chris King •
Updated: 23 Nov 2023 • 17:18
Image of a doctor.
UPDATE: Thursday, November 23 at 4:32 pm
IN a letter sent to the Portuguese Minister of Health this Thursday, November 23, by the Independent Doctors’ Union (SIM), ‘an interim agreement’ was proposed.
The letter was sent to Manuel Pizarro, the Health Minister, with the knowledge of the Prime Minister, António Costa, and Fernando Medina, the Minister of Finance.
As seen by Lusa, it argued: ‘We realise that, with the political crisis in place, the Government is unwilling or unable to commit beyond the 2024 budget, however, the SNS’s problems continue to worsen, regardless of the scheduled elections, so it is vital to reach a responsible agreement’.
Maria de Belém Roseira, the former Health Minister, had previously suggested that SIM should propose: ‘an interim agreement, translated into an intermediate value between what the Government proposes and what the unions demand’, reported sicnoticias.pt.
Signed by Jorge Roque da Cunha, the secretary general of SIM was basically suggesting: ‘In summary, an increase in work value, for all doctors, of 15 per cent, already in 2024’, the news outlet reported.
‘It would therefore remain to be resolved with the next Government the remaining increase, as well as the issue of 35 hours of work per week and 12 hours in Emergency Service – which we understand can be phased beyond 2024 and is not subject to discussion at the present time’, it added.
‘This concession of the SIM can only have a positive response from the Government. Not accepting it would be irresponsible for the Government still in office, given the irreparable damage to the SNS’, the union highlighted.
Da Cunha told Lusa that this was: ‘Another demonstration of SIM’s great desire to reach an agreement and mitigate the disturbances in the SNS that affect the Portuguese’.
After the negotiating round on November 8 was cancelled following Costa’s resignation a meeting between the unions representing doctors and the Minister of Health was scheduled to take place this afternoon at 4 pm. Their previous meeting ended in a stalemate on November 4.
On Tuesday 21, both the National Federation of Doctors (FNAM) and the Independent Union of Doctors (SIM) told Lusa that they considered a new meeting to be of the utmost urgency.
That same day, the Government reinforced its desire to: ‘negotiate with the unions, optimising a time and promoting a positive outcome of the ongoing negotiations’.
UPDATE: Wednesday, November 8 at 3:31 pm
THE meeting that was due to take place this Wednesday, November 8, between the Ministry of Health and the doctor’s unions was cancelled by the Government, according to union sources of cmjornal.pt.
João Roque da Cunha, the general secretary of the Independent Doctors’ Union (SIM) reportedly informed the Lusa news agency that they had been told of the cancellation at around 9 pm last night.
Only three hours before the announcement was made, Portugal’s Minister of Health, Manuel Pizarro, appeared in parliament. He assured that he had not given up hope of reaching an agreement and stressed that negotiations with the unions would continue.
Sunday, November 5 at 0:32 am
THE Portuguese Minister of Health proposed to the unions an increase from 5.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent in doctors’ salary updates this Saturday, November 4.
Manuel Pizarro was making a counter-proposal that he insisted came closer to the union’s demands if the reduction in working hours was also considered, according to cmjornal.pt.
‘The Government’s proposal is that the hourly rate for all doctors, from January onwards, increases by 22.7 per cent because reducing working hours increases the hourly rate and increases because we proposed this Saturday a salary update of 8.5 per cent, indicated Pizarro.
His statement was made to journalists at the end of another negotiating meeting held today with the Independent Union of Doctors (SIM) and the National Federation of Doctors (FNAM), which ended without an agreement.
Negotiations will resume on Wednesday 8, when the Ministry of Health is expected to deliver a new counter-proposal which will include the value of the salary update which, until now, was 5.5 per cent.
However, the demand of the unions representing doctors is a salary increase of around 30 per cent. In Pizarro’s opinion, the Government’s position is no longer so far away. Within the scope of the full dedication regime, the increase may even be higher.
‘The full dedication models, which all doctors can freely adhere to, are models that lead to an immediate salary increase of around 35 per cent’, he continued.
‘The transition of all Family Health Units to model B will mean that many doctors in primary health care could see its remuneration increased by around 60 per cent’, Pizarro explained, while defending the need to ‘look at the set of proposals’.
Regarding another of the doctors’ main demands – the reintroduction of 35 hours per week – Manuel Pizarro reaffirmed his availability to consider this schedule, but highlighted that ‘there must be 35 hours of effective work’.
‘They have to be balanced measures that, on the one hand, value doctors and give them better conditions to reconcile their professional and family lives, but ensure that the National Health Service improves its functioning. That’s what we have to do achieve it’, he maintained.
Looking ahead to the next negotiating meeting, the minister acknowledged that the way in which working hours will be counted as part of the restoration of the 35-hour week was the most divisive issue.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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