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Brazilian unions protest against pension reform and promise further action

22 February, 2019Brazilian unions declared a national day of struggle in defence of universal, public social security, and organized a national assembly of the working class against attacks on pensions. They developed a new schedule of struggles and mobilizations throughout the country.

February 20 was a day of many emotions for the people of Brazil. It was the date chosen by President Jair Bolsonaro to deliver a proposal to Congress to reform the pension system to restrict access, especially for the poorest, and reduce the benefits and historical rights won through years of struggle.

Thousands of workers demonstrated against the ending of their pensions across the country. One of the largest took place in the centre of São Paulo, where it is estimated that more than 10,000 people took part.

At this national assembly of the working class, the unions rejected the changes in the rules and presented a plan of action with nine points to take forward.

Among others, they intend to:

  • Develop another national day of struggle at all centres
  • Convene social organizations to participate and organize debates to explain the risks of this new reform,
  • Expand trade union action in the institutional space of the National Congress,
  • Intensify dialogue with parliamentarians, and
  • Actively participate in the actions of the International Women's Day (March 8) and Workers’ Day (1 May).

The union leaders explained that Bolsonaro is attempting to end the public solidarity system of universal pensions in the country. Instead, he is intends to gradually transition to an “individual capitalization model”, in which each worker's retirement will depend on what they are able to save throughout their working life.

Workers believe that this capitalization should not be implemented for the working class, who struggle for a guaranteed dignified retirement at the end of working life. Periods of unemployment and informal jobs mean that workers are not in a position to save adequately.

The proposal also sets the retirement date by period of contribution and implements a mandatory minimum age of 65 years for men and 62 for women. In addition, it establishes that the transition will be from 10 to 12 years, less than the 20 years proposed by the illegitimate former president Michel Temer.

General secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, Valter Sanches, said:

“The right-wing government of Brazil is intent on destroying the system of social solidarity provision, following failed examples in Latin America, such as Chile, extending working hours and introducing benefits lower than the minimum wage. IndustriALL support its Brazilian affiliates in the fight against the deepening misery represented by this government policy.”