Written by Herbert Claros and Fabio Bosco
This past March 15th, labor and social movements held a huge day of action across Brazil against both the Pension and Labor Reforms sponsored by the Temer administration. In Sao Paulo, the combined strike of bus drivers, subway workers, public teachers and others led the city to a standstill.
Throughout the country, demonstrations, strikes and stopages occured from the early hours of the morning, culminating in the big demostration in the afternoon on the crowded Paulista Avenue, in São Paulo city.
The mobilizations, convened by Brazilian trade union centers, will coincide with the beginning of a general strike of public education workers.
The teachers strike will extend to all the states of the country and counted with the participation of more than one million members.
Dockworkers from the main ports in Brazil and Postalworkers were on a 24-hour strike. Several other sectors, such as bankworkers, metalworkers, bus drivers, subway workers and public workers, carried out paralyzes in several cities of the country.
The objective of this and other actions of protest – he remarked – is to stop the reform of social security and avoid a serious setback.
The proposal of Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 287/2016 sent by Temer to Congress last December establishes, among other aspects, that both men and women and urban or rural workers may retire only after reaching the age of 65 and having worked for 25 years.
The reform sets a minimum age of 65 years for retirement, up from the early sos at present. It also requires workers to serve a full 49 years to qualify for the maximum retirement benefits compared with the current level of 35 for men and 30 for women.
The implementation of this inhumane reform, will make 68 percent of the Brazilian localities unfeasible, in which social security revenues are even higher than the financial transfers of the Union obtained through the Municipal Participation Fund.
Labor Fights Back, General Strike Is The Next Step
The day of action was a joint call by all labor federations and many social movements. The objective of this and other actions of protest is to stop the reform of social security and avoid a serious setback.
For the last 40 years in Brazil, labor and social movements have been very active and diverse organizations have emerged. From the need to keep labor independence while facing the Lula administration, a new coordination of struggles was born in 2004: Conlutas. Combining labor and social movements into a fully independent, democratic and militant organization, it became a labor and people`s federation in 2006. After a merger with other organizations in 2010, it became CSP-Conlutas.
While we share a common condition of being exploited, the bosses have managed to give more privileges to some sectors than others, creating a multi-layered and stratified workforce with different rights, pay scales and benefits. The most glaring feature is that most workers do not have a union. This is a particular dire situation in the United States and the UK where only 11.1% and 29%, respectively, have the right to collective bargaining. Even if in Brazil that figure is higher (60%), there has been an erosion of workers’ rights in the last years. We want to build an alternative unionism that unites all sectors of our class and combats all the attempts to divide us, and to pit some sectors against others.
Since the economic crisis of 2008, the major corporations and their neo-liberal governments have launched a full-frontal attack on workers’ rights, forcing us to pay for a crisis we have not created. Governments have imposed a full round of austerity measures: reductions of wages, pension reductions, cutting benefits and public services, maintenance of a chronic rate of unemployment, and tax increases for workers but never for the rich or the banks.
Even though they have been receiving so many blows, workers all over the world have fought back. Workers in Greece and France have been of note since they have staged several general strikes, but this also the case in the United States with the impressive mobilization of the vast majority of workers and unions in Wisconsin in 2011 to protect the labor rights of public employees. In Brazil, we experienced nation-wide demonstrations in 2013, called the June Journeys, demanding better living standards for workers. CSP-Conlutas actively participated in the demonstrations as it believes that the working class has a vital role to play in the pursuit of changes that workers desire.