Brazil: Minimum Wage Goes to Committee

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.
by: Carlos
Chagas

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.

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