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UPDATED – Portugal: Strike days see high turnout

EL Gazette can report that British Council staff in Portugal went ahead with their planned strike last week. As reported previously, the strike action is due to a discrepancy over fair pay.

On 24 May, a source from the Work Council (Comissão) told the Gazette that BC staff were planning to strike. According to Comissão, BC staff in Portugal haven’t received more than a 1% pay increase in over 13 years.

A staff member strikes in Porto

On Friday 2 and Saturday 3 June, staff – including teachers and non-teachers – formed picket lines outside BC offices across Portugal. The two-day strike proved “remarkably successful,” as a council member has told the Gazette:

"The provisional figures for face-to-face classes cancelled is over 85%, which is an absolutely phenomenal result. There was also only one member of the customer services staff working and, in addition, many other members of the non-teaching staff chose to down tools."

Last Friday, BC issued a comment in response to the strike action. The comment claims they take a “total reward approach, which encompasses pay as well as benefits.” It goes on to say:

"The British Council aligns its salaries to local markets and the British Council Portugal offers a competitive package in the local market.

"Every year since 2009, with the exception of two years during the Covid pandemic, the British Council has given an annual, performance related, salary increase. Increases are mostly between 2% and 3%."
Strikers outside a British Council office in Miraflores

However, Comissão have said this statement is “misleading.” They told the Gazette:

"We do not have performance related pay in Portugal. What we do have is an increment scheme where staff go up pay scales every year, until they reach the top. For teachers it is 10 (or 5, if they don’t have DELTA), and for non-teaching staff it is 12.

"The base salaries have only been altered 1%. For people on the top of the pay scale – and we could be talking about 50% of staff in Portugal – there has not been any change in their salaries."

Staff have further plans to strike at the end of September if they feel their needs are not met. Comissão have informed BC of the results from their strike and have expressed willingness to negotiate. However, as of writing, they have yet to hear back.

UPDATE 2 October:

Further strikes for 29 and 30 September were called off after a pay rise was awarded from the British Council. The Strike Committee have said:

"The British Council management has awarded a pay rise of 4% for 2023 after our successful strike in June, which was supported overwhelmingly by staff.

"The Strike Committee would like to offer a sincere vote of thanks to all our students, parents and customers for their understanding and support during the strike action that was taken earlier this year."
Image courtesy of Comissão
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