Appreciation of police work in Portugal in political disarray
The Dutch Police Union NPB supports the protests of Portuguese colleagues for better pay. Last week, indignation over the low salary level led to the start of a series of demonstrations at police stations and the parliament building. For the first time in 35 years, this was done by police officers in uniform - despite a 2019 court ruling that this is not allowed under Portuguese law.
In November, a remarkable decision by the outgoing cabinet of Prime Minister António Costa ignited the present anger outburst. In the run-up to new parliamentary elections in March 2024, the government team decided on a pay increase for one of the three national police forces in Portugal: the Polícia Judiciária, or PJ for short.
This organization is focused on combating and investigating violent, organized and financial crime, unlike the two other police forces – the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) and the Guarda Nacional Republicana, (GNR). These organizations are more focused on guarding public order and safety and combating and investigating crimes on a smaller scale.
The incomprehensible decision to give only one group of police employees (the crime fighters) a significant pay rise did not go down well with many PSP and GNR employees - and rightly so. This annoyance increased in recent weeks when it became apparent that the remuneration of police work did not appear on the political agenda during the election campaign. Not a single prominent candidate appeared willing to publicly speak out in favor of a serious pay increase for all police employees.
Remarkable, because such an improvement is long overdue. In Portugal, for example, a starting police officer only earns € 1,000. That is not enough to live in a big city, because renting a single room there will cost you half that amount. Also, the allowances of police personnel have not been increased since 2009, not even to correct the effect of inflation on its purchasing power.
Meanwhile, as a result of the demonstrations, the effectiveness of the Portuguese police has clearly suffered. The number of arrests/fines has fallen enormously, due to spontaneous slow-down protests by groups of police officers throughout the country and to the silent marches organized by the Portuguese police unions APG/GNR and Siap Sindicato. Both are affiliated with EU.Pol, the partnership of European police unions co-founded in 2021 by the NPB.
At the beginning of this week, the first high-level talks were held in Lisbon about this conflict and possible ways to end it. A hopeful development perhaps: until recently the outgoing police minister claimed that finding a (financial) solution would be the task of the next cabinet.
The NPB, together with EU.Pol, supports the protests of the colleagues and police unions in Portugal. We sincerely wish that their important work will quickly receive more political recognition, starting with significantly better pay - across the board.