Later, as always, palatian aulics gather around the Nation’s President to comment on the injustice of the booing, the eggs, and the tomatoes. They attribute the manifestations against the government to the same old cunning foes: liberals, toucans (members of the PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), left-wing radicals, restoration supporters, and even Trotskyites.
Better would be to pay attention, still when all evidences show that lack of education, in politics, never rendered dividends to the poorly-educated.
The problem is that - with all respect - discontentment keeps growing. Government retirees didn’t digest well the 11% discount in their paychecks.
Federal and state employees in activity, with few exceptions, cannot get raises that can keep up with inflation.
Students complain over the evident state bias toward private education, in detriment to public schools, with focus on universities.
Workers don’t forget the ongoing devaluation of their salaries, experienced each time they go to street markets or grocery stores.
The middle class clomp their feet in protest to the rise in fuel cost, drugs, services, utility fees, always a step ahead of their income.
The needy and the unemployed aren’t satisfied with programs such as family-scholarship (the program that encourages parents to keep children in school by way of a small salary for each child attending classes), yet to reach the universe of primary education necessities.
National small and medium size businesses oscillate between the increasing tax load and the credit trap, maintained by stratospheric interest rates.
Even the military is crying out, amidst their own peculiarities, reacting to the disclosure of repression archives as a smoke-screen to cover up disputes over low pay.
Who’s left to applaud the government? The usual ones as always, that is, the financial system and speculators, and a significant portion of the media riding the coat tails. Also, foreign creditors and multinationals.
This week, again, they celebrated mounting profits from the stock market, the decline of the dollar, and the lowering of the Brazil-risk.
The question is: in which aspects have the masses of the less privileged and wage workers profited, with all this good news? Did it bring more food to the table of the hungry?
To say that the effects will come later to benefit the population may even be true, but the discontent can’t wait. Especially those who voted on President Lula expecting immediate changes. The echoing boos sound unjust and of bad taste, but are easily justifiable.
One year ago, still at the helm of Social Security, Ricardo Berzoini had his image mixed up with Mephistopheles. He was appointed king of all evils, for requiring little old men/women – ninety years-old and above – to re-register.
Time went by, the Minister switched offices, going to the Labor Ministry, and now comes the profound metamorphosis: thanks to Berzoini’s resistance, the government has postponed to next year the announced proposal of labor reforms.
Because it was planned for President Lula to implement another initiative in which even former President Cardoso had failed.
The idea was (or still is) to make 12 installment payments for paid vacation and the 13th salary (a mandatory annual year-end additional monthly salary), provide for the 40% compensation for dismissals motivated by unjust-cause, and substitute the guarantees of the Consolidated Labor Statutes by free negotiations between employers and employees, meaning, between the guillotine and the neck.
All that, obviously, under pretexts and excuses such as deflating payroll sheets of businesses, promoting official employment contracts, and irrigating the economy.
Nonetheless, the Minister said no. He surged against the installments which, in actuality, in a short time, would provide for the 13th salary and paid vacation.
If each year salaries lose 12% of their purchasing power, just do the math. The 40% fine levied on unjust-cause dismissals has become cláusula pétrea (stone clause, a constitutional clause that prohibits any bill seeking alterations), a victory among so many losses, as well as a way to have more money circulating in the economy.
As to free negotiations, Berzoini bowed to union demands as to their participation in them, protecting fragile and isolated workers, incapable of fighting back the natural attempts of employers to pay less.
A reshuffling within the cabinet is imminent, which will serve, amongst several objectives, as a way for us to find out whether the economic team will follow through or step back on labor reforms.
If Berzoini stays, the remaining workers’ rights will be secure, after the suppressions carried out by the Cardoso administration. If he leaves, we’ll witness another evidence of the metamorphosis of a lathe worker turned sociologist.
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 email@example.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is a freelance translator, with a degree in Business and almost 20 years of experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, FL. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org.