The Unions and Social movements successfully blocked Michel Temer’s neoliberal pension reforms but new proposals by the Bolsonaro administration are even worse
by Brian Mier
In a period marked by destruction of most of Brazil’s labor rights and the first ever lowering of the minimum wage, one of the only glimmers of hope was the labor unions and social movement’s successful defeat of the illegitimate Michel Temer government’s attempt to reform the pension system, which would have raised the retirement age over 70 for most Brazilians.
During the period from 2016-2018, the Unions held two general strikes which paralyzed large swaths of the country through road blockings, transportation shut downs and street protests and hundreds of demonstrations, but they combined this with community meetings in working class neighborhoods across the country and constant pressure on lawmakers from parties that crossed the ideological spectrum. This impeded Temer from mobilizing enough votes in Congress to pass the unpopular measure, which was enthusiastically supported by Anglo journalists.
Now, the client-fascist Bolsonaro government, under the leadership of Chicago Boy Paulo Guedes, who spent years in Chile during the bloody Pinochet dictatorship, is trying to implement pension reforms based on the Chilean model. Guedes is under Federal Police investigation for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars from private pension funds and has announced a private-sector friendly plan which would cut minimum monthly benefits in half. In a country were 40% of the population work in the informal sector and most adults pass their lives shifting between formal and informal work, Brazilian workers would have to contribute 40 years into the system in order to receive benefits. This measure, therefore, would effectively bar the majority of Brazilian citizens from ever retiring.
The labor unions and social movements connected with the Frente Brasil Popular have called a people’s assembly for February 20th, in which they will map out a plan for resisting the new retirement reform plans.
On Friday, February 8, I visited Lula’s former union, the ABC Metalworkers Union in São Bernardo do Campo to report on the issue for TeleSur English. The story can be seen here:
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