It was an informal episode, which took place on the way out of the Madeira Congress Centre, in Funchal, after the closing session of the XII Congress of Portuguese Judges, which ended this Saturday. The Minister of Justice, Catarina Sarmento e Castro, had just spoken to journalists about the impacts of the strike sui generis enacted by the Unions of Judicial Employees (SFJ), which has been running for a month, and has caused the postponement of thousands of steps, including numerous trials.
The president of the SFJ, António Marçal, greeted the minister and asked her if she would be present at the next business meeting that will take place next Thursday at the Ministry of Justice. The minister explained that it is the Assistant Secretary of State and Justice, Jorge Costa, who will continue to lead the process and quickly the conversation slipped to the reasons for the protest.
“I hope that by then it will be possible to put an end to this”, said Catarina Sarmento e Castro, referring to the strike. António Marçal replied that it could end right away as long as two demands from the union were met, which everyone considers fair. It referred to the payment of a remuneration supplement for 14 months (instead of the 11 currently paid) and the release of promotions.
The minister insisted that the review of the statutes for bailiffs is ongoing and will be completed this year, regretting that the officials have gone on strike under these conditions. “It’s a question of stubbornness and stubbornness is destroying Justice”, launched Catarina Sarmento e Castro.
Already after this exchange of words, António Marçal regretted to journalists that the Ministry of Justice does not respond to proposals from bailiffs. Since mid-February, the SFJ has been carrying out a non-traditional strike, as workers remain in the workplace but refuse to perform certain acts, namely most of the errands. And, therefore, they want to continue to receive the salary in full.
At the same time, another strike is taking place, enacted by the Union of Bailiffs, in more classic terms – workers stop every afternoon after 1 pm, this time being deducted from their salary – which started on 10 January and has an end date.
Earlier, the minister had argued that it is necessary to look at the human resources of Justice in a transversal way and admitted that the initial priority was the staff of the Judiciary Police and now it is the Justice officers. For the year, she specified, it will be the turn of social reintegration technicians and the following year of the forensic medicine career. She also added that in the next few days a multi-annual plan would be announced for the review of careers in registries and notary offices, which have not seen changes at this level for over 23 years.
In the closing speech of the congress, the president of the Union Association of Portuguese Judges (ASJP), Manuel Ramos Soares, had already demanded from the minister an “urgent” solution to the demands of the court officials who have been on strike since the beginning of the year which have already led to the postponement of thousands of proceedings in the courts.
“They are right. What they ask for is fair and reasonable”, said Manuel Ramos Soares, drawing a strong applause from the hundreds of judicial magistrates sitting in the audience.