With an already overloaded justice system groaning under the volume of backed-up cases, the Association of Portuguese Judges has announced a 21-day national strike.
"Unfortunately we have been forced to come to this extreme situation, but we are willing to talk, as we have always been. We have to do it in a climate of responsibility and seriousness," said the president of the judges’ trade union, Manuel Soares.
The government said it is relying on "a sense of responsibility from the judges," after the 21 day’s downtime was announced, to take place between November 20th until October 21st next year.
The Ministry of Justice said that in its negotiations with the judges’ union, it made it clear from day one that there would be no change in salary scales as there is not enough money to remove the current cap on remuneration.
Manuel Soares regretted that the union had been kept waiting for a year and a half to talk to the Ministry, "the Socialist parliamentary group made a promise that has not been carried out. The President of the Republic was informed and we were forced to take this extreme action."
As for salary rises, this "is not the most important issue, but it is one of them," added Soares.
To add more misery for those waiting several years for their court cases to be heard, a day’s strike by court workers also has been announced for November 16, with further strike action planned for between January 7 and 11, 2019.
Despite the best efforts of Justice Minister, Francisca van Dunem, the government seems happy to oversee a justice system that is clogged with around one million pending cases, which fails to serve the public on many levels.
One of the key influences for foreign companies deciding whether or not to set up in Portugal, is the speed and efficiency of the justice system. Neither yet is evident and for as long as justice remains low on the government’s spending priorities, the situation will continue to cause misery for millions of citizens waiting in a queue with no start date in sight.