Trade union centers have staged today (Jan 28) a protest against the provisional measures announced by the federal government late last year. The changes affect laws on social benefits—pensions have been
reduced, for instance—and redefine regulations and deadlines for sick pay and unemployment insurance.
The demonstration was also an act against corruption. “The government has to keep taking action so that Petrobras can remain in the hands of the people, and a source of employment,” said João Carlos Gonçalves, also known as Juruna, secretary-general at the trade union center Força Sindical.
The protest was organized by major Brazilian trade union centers, such as Central Única dos Trabalhadores, Força Sindical, Central dos Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras do Brasil, União Geral dos Trabalhadores (UGT), Central dos Sindicatos Brasileiros, Nova Central, and also a number of other social movements.
Walking in procession, demonstrators strolled from the São Paulo Art Museum, on Avenida Paulista, one the city’s most important thoroughfares, all the way to the Petrobras headquarters.
Juruna says unions are urging the government to adopt models for improving tax collection and prevent the reduction of labor benefits. Among the actions suggested are coming up against fraud and employers that fail to pay benefits, and stricter monitoring policies.
“In our view, the provisional measures deprive workers from their rights. Our negotiations with the government have got underway. This demonstration is a way to show the discontent felt by workers towards those neo-liberal measures,” Juruna said.
The unionist believes the actions are harmful to the more vulnerable working classes. “Cutting down the unemployment insurance or the year-end bonus is not the answer, because these measures end up being detrimental especially to those who get short-term jobs and young people who get high-turnover jobs in our country,” he stated.
UGT São Paulo President Luiz Carlos Mota complains that the provisional measures were met with much surprise because the topic had not been discussed with the union representatives. “Now workers are showing the president that we must not go back on our labor rights—we must move forward,” he said.
Apart from the provisional measures, another topic raised by Mota is the labor agenda. “The reduction in the work day, the end of the social security factor, [and] updating the income tax rate are issues that cause an impact on the workers’ wallet. These are demands we have been making with the union centers for years. Nothing on the agenda had ever been changed. And now they want to change the unemployment insurance, the year-end bonus, the sick pay. We’re not accepting this,” he declared.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira