Unhappy, Striking Brazilian Civil Servants Get 16% Raise and Go Back to Work

Public servants' strike in Brazil In Brazil, last weekend (August 25 and 26) was the deadline for striking federal civil servants, who have stopped their work for 3 months, to either accept a 15.8% pay raise offered by the Brazilian government or get nothing.

Many different “categories” of federal employees are on strike and they are represented by different unions. The Ministry of Planning talked to around 30 separate labor unions over the weekend after a reported 180 rounds of negotiations since March that have so far been basically fruitless.

Hanging over everybody’s head is the August 31 deadline for amendments to next year’s budget.  Any salary raises will have to be in it. According to the Secretary of Labor Relations at the Ministry of Planning, Sérgio Mendonça, negotiations should have been closed on Sunday and on Monday and Tuesday agreements reached were to be signed.

The only area where even partial agreement has been reached is with federal university employees (these are tuition-free schools where most teachers and administrative personnel are civil servants. As they have passed competitive exams, most have tenure).

The teachers are to receive salary raises varying between 25% and 40% and the number of salary levels in their career plan will be reduced from 17 to 13. That will cost the government R$ 4.2 billion. Administrative personnel will get an adjustment that will cost R$ 2.9 billion.

The offer the government has made to the other categories of civil servants will cost the treasury around R$ 12 billion in additional payroll costs over the next three years (the offer is a 15.8% salary increase over three years).

The total impact of this latest strike on the budget will be over R$ 18 billion.

The government says around 80,000 federal civil servants are on strike. The unions say the number is closer to 350,000. At least some employees in the following departments are on strike: Institute of Land Reform (“Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária – Incra”), National Health Institute and Disease Control (“Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária -Anvisa”), National Archives (“Arquivo Nacional”), IRS (“Receita Federal”), the ministries of Health, Planning, Environment and Justice (“ministérios da Saúde, do Planejamento, do Meio Ambiente e da Justiça”), Federal Highway Patrol (“Polícia Rodoviária Federal – PRF”) and FBI (“Polícia Federal”).

The government has moved the final day for agreements with unions of striking federal civil servants to today (Wednesday, August 29).

According to the main union (“Condsef”), 80% of workers have accepted the offer made by the administration. Josemilton Costa of Condsef says that members of the union will receive a salary adjustment that will vary between 14% and 37%, although the impact on the federal budget will remain less than 15.8% over a three year period.

“It is less than we wanted, but it is not a bad deal seeing as how we were forced to begin negotiations at zero – no increase at all,” explained Costa.

The agreement will benefit some 18 federal careers at the ministries of Social Security, Health, Culture, Finance, Agriculture, Planning, Justice, Transportation, National Integration and Labor. Administrative personnel at the Federal Highway Patrol will also get an increase.

Among other federal civil servants who will get salary increases are those at: National Health Foundation (“Funasa”), National Indian Foundation (“Funai”), National Archives, National Press, Indian Museum, Tourism Corporation and the Secretary of Government Property (“Fundação Nacional de Saúde (Funasa), Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai), Arquivo Nacional, Imprensa Nacional, Museu do Índio, Empresa Brasileira de Turismo (Embratur) and Secretaria de Patrimônio da União”).

The Chief Justice of the Southern Regional Federal Court (“Tribunal Regional Federal da 4th Region) in Porto Alegre suspended an injunction (“liminar”) that halted docking salaries of Federal Police in Rio Grande do Sul. The decision was made on Saturday, August 25.

In her ruling, the judge (“desembargadora”), Marga Inge Barth Tessler, declared: “The risk of grave damage to orderly public administration is evident due to the substantial reduction of Federal Police services…”

The injunction halting salary cuts was obtained by the labor union that represents the Federal Police. Judge Tessler accepted a motion to overturn it by the federal Office of Government Attorneys (“AGU”).

Federal Police have been on strike since August 7. Among other demands, they insist that their salaries, which begin at R$ 7,500, should be the same as salaries for police chiefs (“delegados”), which begin at R$ 13,400. The last time the Federal Police went on strike it lasted two months – that was in 2004.

The question of the constitutionality of cutting off salaries of striking federal civil servants is the subject of a lawsuit filed at the Supreme Court by at least four labor unions.

Belo Monte

The Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court, Carlos Ayres Britto, overturned a ruling of August 14 by a regional federal court (“Quinta Turma do Tribunal Regional Federal da 1ª Região – TRF1”) that ordered a halt to work on the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.

In his opinion, which was favorable to a motion filed by the government through its federal attorney office (“Advocacia-Geral da União -AGU”),  Britto revealed that the decision favorable to the government can be reviewed after a more detailed examination of the case that will begin now.

At the same time, Britto requested more information from the TRF1 and sent the case file (“autos”) to the federal prosecutor’s office (“Procuradoria-Geral da República – PGR”). Earlier, the PGR emitted an opinion in favor of maintaining the suspension of work on Belo Monte.

ABr

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