Workers at the Autoeuropa car assembly plant in Palmela, just south of Lisbon, staged a 24-hour strike this week for the first time in the company’s 25-year history. The plant is one of the biggest drivers of the Portuguese economy, producing roughly one percent of the country’s wealth.
The action, which started on Tuesday night and lasted through Wednesday, was staged against having to work an extra day for the next two years.
Around three thousand plant workers met on Monday evening to discuss the action, which came after the plant’s management said it would become compulsory for them to work Saturdays to assemble the new Volkswagen T-Roc model in the coming years, a move which according to reports could have been given to other countries.
Autoeuropa had offered workers a salary increase of 16 percent along with a bonus of 175 euros a month and an additional day of leave per month, but this was refused by three-quarters of workers who backed a decision to strike instead.
The day-long industrial action is estimated to have cost Autoeuropa five million euros in lost revenue.
The new timetable will only come into effect next February, with workers set to have further discussions with the company, but only after 3 October, when a new labour commission is elected.
Sceptical observers have said these upcoming elections are an integral part of this strike action, with union leaders looking to harness support in the run-up to the ballot.
But some workers have said the compensation being paid to work on Saturdays is irrelevant, as they will now have very limited time to spend with their families.
But former union leader António Chora has challenged the complaints being logged by workers, saying that the assembly of the new model was accepted back in 2015 on the condition that shifts be increased.
“At the time, nobody opposed this condition”, set out by Volkswagen to secure the annual production of 240,000 cars of the new model.