Go Back

Brazzil - Economy - June 2004

Brazil: Minimum Wage Goes to Committee

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wants a committee
to discuss and present a new minimum wage policy for Brazil.
Had Lula thought about such a commission earlier he
might have avoided much headache and would have a better
chance to win the coming elections for his Workers' Party.

Carlos Chagas


Picture In order to justify the obscene minimum wage of 260 reais (US$ 84) that he was able to make Brazil's Lower House approve, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced that he is creating a committee whose task will be to study a new minimum wage policy.

That might mean a search for mechanisms that from now on would be capable of, gradually and automatically, raise Brazilian workers' salaries without the frenzy that every year torments governments and humiliates workers.

Superb. Why hasn't the President dealt with this issue the first day he took office, however? After all, his campaign promise was to double the minimum wage's earning power by the end of his four-year mandate.

To reach this goal he would need a reasonable-term strategy. If the plan had been started one and a half year ago, the President's party, the PT, wouldn't be risking losing the October elections.

Neither would they have to go through the shame of having to explain why President Lula fought to snatch 15 reais (US$ 4.8) from the pocket of those who earn this pittance.

Let's wait for the composition of the committee. First of all, let us see if the commission will be managed by the economic team or by someone less neoliberal. Let us also see which organizations will be taking part in it.

Of course the union federations will be represented, but it would be a bad start to give the CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores—Unified Workers' Confederation) and the Força Sindical trade union total control over minimum wage earners.

These unions have already a full time job caring for metal workers and other qualified workers whose salaries are well above minimum wage. We'll need to find representation among those who really survive on 260 reais a month.

Upside Down

These are only rumors for now, but it's worthwhile to report them, because if they become a reality this will represent a very radical change for the government.

There are talks in Congress that Lula would have already explored the option of inviting Acre's governor Jorge Viana to be his Chief of Staff, after the October elections, in place of José Dirceu.

A politician used to dialogue and conciliatory as few others, Viana, would be able to lend a new face to the most important cabinet in the Planalto, second only to the presidential cabinet, of course.

The change would also include the current president of the House of Representatives, João Paulo Cunha, taking over the Political Coordination Ministry occupied now by Aldo Rebello.

The simple mention of such a hypothesis would show that the President has decided not to back the return of the amendment that would allow the reelection of presidents of the House and the Senate.

The performance of João Paulo Cunha during two votes dealing with measures about the minimum wage proposed by the executive filled Lula with admiration for his party comrade.

José Dirceu and Aldo Rebello wouldn't be left on the streets. Dirceu, the current Chief of Staff, back into the House, would need to smooth quite a few rough edges, most of them in his own party. Then he would need to beat the opposition and become House president for the 2005-2006 biennium.

Aldo Rebello would continue as a minister, but hardly at the Defense Ministry. Not that he lacks any requirement to occupy that post. Being a nationalist and a defender of a larger role for the Armed Forces he would excel even when compared to the José Viegas administration.

The devil is that the government's Political Coordinator belongs to the PC do B (Communist Party of Brazil). He never reneged or will ever renege his condition as communist. His appointment would mean an unnecessary provocation against the military even though the Araguaia guerrillas and other radical initiatives from the PC do B are history today.

It's unconceivable that the Army, Navy or Air Force would rebel at Aldo Rebello's indication though. These corporations have become used, for long, to swallow toads standing in attention. But the question is simple: why would anyone create, gratuitously, unrest in such a restful area?

Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio's daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.
Translated by Arlindo Silva.

Discuss it in our Forum

Send your comments to Brazzil

Anything to say about Brazil or Brazilians? Brazzil
wishes to publish your material. See what to do.