Supermarket chain Pingo Doce is in hot water this week over a summertime ‘apprenticeship’ scheme aimed at the young adult children of its Algarve staff.
Criticism centres on the scheme being a cheap way of substituting workers taking their annual summer holidays.
Highlighted by alternative news website AbrilAbril, the story has been picked up by the mainstream and is now being widely repeated.
Diário de Notícias, for example, speaks to union bosses who refer to the low quota of staff employed by the chain, and the “very violent work schedules”.
“We know that the number of people becoming ill (while working for Pingo Doce) has increased in the last few years”, explained Isabel Camarinha of the syndicate of commercial, office and services employers, allied to the CGTP workers’ union, while Luís Azinheira of the Syndicate of commercial, catering, tourism and technical service workers, part of UGT, told journalists: “A group like Jerónimo Martins (of which Pingo Doce is part) which talks so much about social responsibility is simply taking advantage of cheap labour when it promotes these kind of apprenticeships”.
The pay – at €500 per month €57 short of the minimum national wage – is for a 40-hour week on ‘rotative shifts’ and, according to a document cited by AbrilAbril, candidates face expulsion for “any unjustified absence, lack of punctuality, or non-compliance with the internal rules of the company”.
DN suggests that union bosses and MPs are now demanding that work conditions authority ACT looks into the scheme, due to run during July and August.
Pingo Doce, for its part, has said that it is an ‘internal initiative’ proposed in response to “requests by many members of staff who would like their young adult children have a real experience in the labour market”.
A source told DN that the apprenticeship scheme is aimed at 18-25 year olds.
Specialist in labour law Francisco Espregueira Mendes told the paper that if Pingo Doce lacks the number of employees it needs, it “should be hiring new members of staff”, not substituting the shortfall with low-paid apprentices.
Left Bloc MP João Soeiro agrees, saying the “use of apprentices to fulfill work needs is unacceptable” but something that has been going on throughout the country.
He and communist colleague Rita Rato say they will both now be taking legality of the scheme up in parliament.
Readers may recall that the Jerónimo Martins group faced swingeing criticism during the austerity years for relocating its headquarters to Holland in order to pay less tax.