After 28 days of strike, it will take between seven and ten days for the Brazilian Post Office to normalize mail delivery, says the vice president in charge of its Legal Office, Jeferson Carus Guedes.
The biggest problems will be in large metropolitan areas and some isolated rural regions, such as in the state of Pará. The Post Office estimates that some 185 million items were not delivered since the beginning of the work stoppage.
Brazil’s Superior Labor Court ordered that striking workers be docked for seven days and that the other 21 days they were on strike must be compensated for by working overtime on weekends.
After four weeks without mail delivery, the Superior Labor Court (Tribunal Superior do Trabalho – TST) has ordered postal workers back to work today, Thursday, October 13.
The ruling came down on October 11, and was for workers to return the next day, but as October 12 was a national holiday the mail will once again begin to move only today.
In the ruling by the section of the court specialized in labor disputes, the Post Office was allowed to dock striking workers for seven days and make them work weekends to make up for the other 21 days on strike. The postal worker union can be fined 50,000 reais (US$ 28,000) per day if it refuses to obey.
The question as to whether or not the striking workers would be paid for the days they did not work was one of the flash points in the long postal strike negotiations. There is a Brazilian tradition of paying striking workers in the public sector that has been changing slowly.
Radical striking workers are opposed to any change, while the public in the role of victims of the strikes and government authorities responsible for a more efficient administration, are more and more in favor of docking pay.
The TST Chief Justice, João Oreste Dalazen, who wanted to allow all the days not worked to be docked from the striking workers salaries, declared:
“A negotiated solution was close on a number of occasions but the striking workers were not sensitive to the situation and there were people infiltrated in the strike who were interested in radicalizing positions. This was strike that had unequivocal political characteristics a number of times.”
As if to emphasize that the strike had lasted too long, the TST ordered a new labor contract that was the same as one offered at the end of September during the first round of negotiations: a real increase of 80 reais for all postal workers beginning October 1st; and an across-the-board salary and benefits increase of 6.87%, retroactive to August 1st. It is estimated that the new contract will add around 850 million reais (US$ 484 million) to the Post Office’s annual budget.
The general secretary of the lead postal worker union (Federação Nacional dos Trabalhadores de Empresas de Correios, Telégrafos e Similares – Fentect), José Rivaldo da Silva, lamented that the court ordered a solution that had been rejected by the unions.
No less than 35 unions negotiated for the workers, many of them from different states. “We expected more,” said a disappointed José Rivaldo da Silva, who added that the lesson of this strike seemed to be that a negotiated deal was better than a Labor Court order.
The TST Chief Justice, Delazen, criticized the unions, pointing out that there was an obvious disconnect between labor leaders and the rank and file. “This is a conflict that weakens the union movement. This fragility in the organization of Brazilian labor unions should be resolved quickly.”
The last strike by postal workers was in 2009 and lasted for 12 days. The biggest postal worker strike was for 32 days in 1994.