The Portuguese Navy will need six ships, which are already planned, and in the opinion of the current Minister of the Economy and the Sea, António Costa Silva, the Portuguese naval industry should be mobilized to “produce this equipment and not put [as encomendas] in highly overloaded terms of reference which then divert” this production out of the country.
Heard this Wednesday morning in Parliament, at the Committee on Economy, Public Works, Planning and Housing, the official responded to a question raised by the PCP, about the creation of 400 jobs at the Shipyards of Viana do Castelo (ENVC) , when he left a veiled criticism of the “nomenclature” that prefers “to comply with European rules” to “serving national interests”.
“We are following the issue of 400 jobs. I am of the opinion, for example, [neste caso em] that the Navy will need its planned six ships, that we should use the national shipyards to produce this equipment and not put it in highly overloaded specifications that then make everything divert. But this is in our nomenclature in Portugal. Sometimes we have people who want to follow European rules more than serve national interests and one of the things that lose us here is the famous good student syndrome. The good student means doing what Brussels says or even above it. Then we see the Spaniards building their 12 ships in the Ferrol shipyards, what the Dutch do, and we also have to defend our national industry”, said the minister, responding to communist deputy Bruno Dias.
“As far as we know, the announcement of the creation of 400 jobs that was made at the time of privatization never materialized”, observed Bruno Dias, when questioning the minister, returning to a theme that the communist bench has not let fall. The deputy underlined that, when he highlighted that the PCP has been asking questions about this matter with the Government, but that “until now” there has been no white smoke. And he ended with irony: it was so difficult to support the Viana do Castelo shipyards when it was a public company, but it is now easy to give public support to the company after privatization, without, however, fulfilling the promises regarding the creation of work stations.
Avoid past mistakes
Among the many topics raised by the deputies for this hearing (the Recovery and Resilience Plan, the agenda for tourism in the interior, support for the textile industry, wages, the performance of the economy in the face of the difficulties of families), this response stood out of the minister, by implying that, among those who will have responsibilities in ordering ships for the Navy, not everyone seems to row in the same direction, that is, to defend national production.
Costa Silva did not identify, however, who prefers to follow Brussels rules rather than hand this mission over to Portuguese shipyards. But he insisted, when he later supported the idea that there has been a recovery in wages and purchasing power since 2015, that it is “absolutely decisive” for the “country to create wealth” and that economic activity also manages to “reduce the imported content of our exports”.
“It is essential to use all the country’s productive capacity, to manufacture our machines, our equipment and to diversify ourselves, then, at an international level, exports from traditional markets”, said the minister, claiming that it was a “soul pain” to watch to the “impressive destruction of value over time” in the country, in companies such as Sorefame, but also Cimpor and Portugal Telecom, where “errors” were committed that put these companies on a “loss path”.
“We have to pay more and more attention to the country’s industrial sector. The disappearance of some of these companies was reflected in the loss of importance of the industrial sector, which today represents 10% to 12% of GDP”, he said.
Putting pressure on Galp
Costa Silva also had to answer about the closure of the Galp refinery in Matosinhos and about Efacec, which was nationalized and whose first privatization attempt failed.
Regarding Galp, responding to Mariana Mortágua, from Bloco de Esquerda, the minister guaranteed that the Government is “putting pressure” on the company to “readmit workers”. And he assured that the decontamination of land is an obligation of the company.
The closure of that unit, announced on Christmas Eve in 2020, led to the collective dismissal of 137 people who, a year and a half later, continued with their lives on hold, as PÚBLICO reported in a report in early April.
In September 2021, the general secretary of the PS, António Costa, defended at a party rally in Viana do Castelo that it was necessary to give an “exemplary lesson” to Galp, as the BE deputy recalled now, in the hearing of the minister which protects the sea. Mortágua had several questions for Costa Silva: what was that lesson? What happens to the workers, who have not seen the promises of job conversion come true? What is Galp’s contribution to people who have been made redundant or to land left unattended?
In response, the government official acknowledged that “there is clearly a problem with the workers.” “Costa Silva revealed that he had addressed “this matter” with the mayor of Matosinhos, Luísa Salgueiro (PS), and “what is being done is trying to pressure Galp to readmit workers. Some have already been readmitted to the Sines refinery”.
Some of the workers will be able to undergo train driver training that the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP) will promote, said the minister, who said he had no information on the conditions for transferring workers from Matosinhos to Sines. According to Mariana Mortágua, those who accepted to be reinstated at the Sines refinery have to accept the loss of labor rights inherent to seniority in the company. Costa Silva promised that he would inform himself and “work with the Ministry of Labour”, defending that rights “must be respected” and workers “must be treated with dignity”.
Finally, regarding Efacec, the new reprivatization process is “in conclusion”, guaranteed Costa Silva. “I think that very soon a recommendation will be taken to the Council of Ministers”, for the sale of the capital that was nationalized in the middle of the pandemic, when the management led by the shareholder Isabel dos Santos became a problem.
“We are fighting to have a credible project for Efacec. It is a great technological company, it employs a lot of workers. I cannot guarantee anything or promise anything, we are doing the best we can and have a commitment from the buyer with the company and with the country.”