General Strike against the Attacks on Workers in Brazil

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The Brazilian government has been using measures to remove historical rights from Brazilian workers since last year. As representative of the interests of bosses, bankers and multinational companies, the government and corrupts congressmen defend many austerity measures that are so serious as those applied in Europe. Measures exposed workers degrading conditions.

In December Brazil’s congress passed a controversial spending cap that will limit public spending to inflation for the next 20 years. The spending cap has been described by a senior UN official as the most socially regressive austerity package in the world. It will damage the country’s already fragile health and education systems.

The Temer government are in a corruption scandal with dozens of senior politicians implicated in the ongoing Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation into bribery and kickbacks at the state run oil company Petrobras. In the list of investigated by corruption are 8 ministers, 24 senators and 40 deputies. President Temer and the presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senate are also being investigated for corruption. It is a deep political crisis and these corrupts still want to attack the rights of the workers.

Temer is a loyal representative of companies and banks. The Brazilian people know that politicians steal public money with corruption and still want to withdraw workers’ rights. Now is time for workers attend the general strike called for April 28. Read below about the reforms and called the general strike.

The Attack on pensions and the Social Security Reform

In December 2016, the illegitimate President Michel Temer sent to National Congress the Proposed Amendment to the Constitution (PEC) 287/2016, which wants to implement a Social Security Reform, withdrawing rights from a large number of Brazilian workers in order to continue paying the interests of the public debt with money in the public pensions fund.

If this bill passes, Brazilian workers will have to contribute to the National Social Security Institute (INSS) for 50 years in order to receive full pension. The monthly ceiling paid by INSS, today equivalent to US$1,637.42. With this reform the pension for widows will be halved.

The new retirement rules set forth in the Proposal will apply to men under the age of 50 and women under the age of 45. For them pension benefits have been set to 65 years of age. Furthermore, the minimum age will change automatically, over the years, if there is any increase in the life expectancy of the Brazilians. However, if there is a fall in life expectancy, the rule will not change.

If the Pension Reform is approved, citizens will have to wait until they are 65 to retire, even when they have worked much more than 30 years. In some regions of Brazil, life expectancy is a little over 65, which means that in the poorest regions of the country workers would often not live long enough to enjoy their retirement.

In addition, people with physically demanding jobs, such as farm and construction workers who often start working at quite a young age, would have to work many more years to retire, which is likely to compromise their health.

The rules will be the same for private sector workers and for public employees. The lowest pension will be equivalent to the national minimum wage which today is US$277.69 monthly. Pensions will be increased yearly.

The pension “reform” is in line with what is being discussed in Europe and particularly in crisis-ridden Greece and Spain. The business-government “consensus” in these matters is that people are living too long and the minimum retirement age should be raised to 65. This means that the poor layers of Brazilians, who enter the legal labor market at 16, would work no less than 49 years before retirement. By the same logic, wages are too high and should be cut, which the current constitution forbids.

In reality this bill will benefits banks as it transforms welfare programs and services into a private capitalization scheme to finance public debt. This “reform” exempts the State from the management of Social Security turning it into an open market for banks to capitalize on the workers’ welfare (22.9% of the national budget, second only to the 42.43% for payments of the public debt destined to banks in 2015).

The devastating effects of this Counter-Reform are justifed by lies such as the so-called deficit in the Social Security. One of the most repeated arguments by those who support the bill is to present it as a burden to public budget. The justification is rebutted by several researchers and by labor and social movements, who point out that, following constitutional provisions, the claim of the deficit is untrue as the Constitution provides for the Social Security System (composed of Social Security, Healthcare and Social Assistance) the necessary amount of funding which is not put into practice for political reasons, and not for lack of funds.

The Labor Reform

Temer’s government wants to place the “crisis” on the shoulders of workers’s and youth, in order to benefit bankers and businessmen. To make workers pay, Temer is driving a series of attack measures to the rights and social conquests. The Labor reform would mean lower salaries, less benefits and precarious work conditions, that, if approved, will bring major losses and damages to the workers, the poor people, and Brazil’s sovereignty itself. It seeks to undermine any collective gains and rights the labor movement has won over decades and instituted in the existing Labor Code by eroding its legal standing.

The main item of the labor reform is weakening laws that protect workers. The proposal establishes 117 points which will be negotiated between employers and employees – the main one being that agreements between them would be enforced by law.

This means that concessionary agreements negotiated by the unions in violation Brazil’s highly detailed, almost 80-years-old Labor Code—which have been frequently struck down by the labor courts— will be now be allowed to stand.

It is highly significant that in such a sweeping restructuring of class relations, union “negotiations” are being promoted as never before in Brazil.

The reform will also change the number of hours worked in the day, which could be raised from 8 to 12, with a maximum of 48 hours of work per week.

A longer workday is already foreseen in some sectors, such as healthcare and security industries, in which people work 12-hour shifts, with 36 hours of rest between shifts. The reform also regulates working from home: lunch hour of at least 30 minutes, and productivity-based wages, among others.

The government says that the proposed labor reform is an effort to “modernize” the existing law and prevent a loss of jobs by revising rules so that employees and companies can negotiate. It’s the same argument other governments used around the world to erode collective bargaining rights and social gains. But we know the goal is to push the ongoing race to the bottom in terms of labor conditions, pay and rights.

GENERAL STRIKE: April 28th – we will stop Brazil!*

It is time for all to join the building of the unitary General Strike that will take place next April 28. Without a doubt, this calling is a great victory of the Brazilian working class and of our Federation, which has defended for a long time the need and possibility to stop the country against the government’s attacks.

Our insistence in the calling for a unitary building of a General Strike has been based on the understanding there is a strong disposition of struggle and indignation in the working class. All this due to unemployment, the worsening of living conditions, the increase in violence that victimizes the poor and black people in the periphery; against the lama sea of corruption and the continuity of the policy to withdraw rights, which came from the Workers Party (PT) administrations and is now intensified with the current Temer administration (PMDB).

The day of General Strike will take place in a scenario where the administration has less than 10% approval and the economic crisis deepens further. At the same time, corruption denunciations advance with over 10 governors and hundreds of representatives mentioned in the Lava Jato investigation and Odebrecht delations.

The explosive and shameful case of the “Weak Meet” operation is added to this framework. Unconcerned with this situation, the Temer administration and the National Congress dare to continue attacking the workers with the adoption of outsourcing and the continuation of the processing of the pensions and labor reforms, increasing even more the outrage and will of struggle of the workers and poor people.

At the same time, the Temer administration lost the dispute in defense of the Pensions Reform before the population and there are fissures among his allies in Congress, as he did not manage to set his Pensions Reform to vote.

All of us must face the challenge to carry out this General Strike based on the gained experience of strikes and demonstrations that took place during March. In these activities, our Federation was active and politically involved, showing the success of insisting in the defense of the unity in action in the streets and consequently in the contribution to broaden the mobilization of our class.

The 8th, the International Working Women’s Day, was one of those days this year that extended with immense force all over the world. Consequently, it influenced actions and demonstrations from there. We were also fed by the strikes and labor stoppages that took place on the 15th, the demonstrations and actions of the public employees of the three areas that took place on the 28th, and the demonstrations and public acts that took place last 31st.

Unlike the failure of the last attempt to mobilize by the openly “right-wing” organizations, like March 26 by MBL [Movimiento Brasil Livre; t.n.] to defend the reforms, we recently saw there was broad and strong unity of the workers in our class’s struggle. Since this unity was built with the update of the forms and methods of mobilization of the working class, they strengthened the mobilizations and increased our conviction that the General Strike is possible and its strength may defeat the reforms and may pose a threat to the government. Finally, if these reforms are adopted, it will evidently represent a brutal attack to our rights. We will not accept this! Thus, time has come to take on this task. We know the strength of the General Strike may defeat the reforms and even overthrow the Temer administration. For this to happen, we need to bet on the organization “of the rank and file”.

From now on, besides the assemblies of the organized categories and the unity in action among the Union Federations, it is necessary to promote the examples of willingness, organization and struggle of the poor and black people of the periphery.

Just as to seek to involve the factory commissions, neighborhood, workplace and study place groups, and the retired and struggle associations. This way we will help organize “Committees of Struggle Against the Reforms” in each of these places and make them become actual “Rank and file commands of the General Strike”.

Our tasks do not end next 28th, thus we must work hard in the building of a unitary and classist May 1st and an action and activity agenda for the following months, giving continuity to the struggle against the reforms and against the government.

We will take to the streets the strength of our struggle and “Stop Brazil”. From north to south, from east to west. From the workers to the small merchants, from public employees to employees of the private sector. We will unite the fields, the city, the youth and all men and women of our class to show the strength we have. It is necessary and possible to struggle for the strike to go beyond the categories and lead to a general stoppage in production, circulation and marketing of goods. So that we actually have an active strike with broad popular participation.

During this building process and the preparation of the General Strike, we must be vigilant against all attempts of negotiation and treason, in other words, of turning in of our rights. In case this happens, we must denunciate and expose anyone who may attempt to betray our struggle, whether it be a parliamentary representative or sectors of the leadership of the union movement.

Neither can we accept someone who comes and attempts to deviate our actions and battles for the path of “electoral agreements with the bourgeoisie” or the simple defense of Lula 2018. These proposals do not represent us and divide the movement, becoming an obstacle for the necessary unity to defeat the reforms, which is even capable of overthrowing the government.

It is possible and necessary in this struggle and direct action to build a political and class alternative against the traditional right represented by the PMDB/PSDB and other variations, and against the class conciliation project represented by the PT/PCdoB and their allies. None of these two projects represents the interests of our Federation and the working class. This poses the challenge of building a political alternative with class independence and project of the working class. Against the pensions and labor reforms, outsourcing, for employment and no cut in rights, to overthrow Temer and all the corrupt in congress, and demand punishment and confiscation of assets of all the corrupt and corruptors.

Let us all go together, workers, youth, native peoples, retired, public employees, peasants, movements of struggle against oppressions, of struggle for housing, unemployed, liberal professionals, autonomous, all! It is time to take to the streets the strength of our struggle and stop Brazil.

It is time for a General Strike. We will stop the country, from north to south, from east to west. This is the path. This is the task. Us, from the CSP-CONLUTAS will be involved along with all the working people, in the building of the General Strike we will carry out next April 28.

– Against the Pensions and Labor reforms and outsourcing;

– For employment and no cut of rights;

– Out with Temer and all the corrupt in Congress!

* Resolution adopted by the meeting of the National Coordination of the CSP-Conlutas, April 9, 2017.

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