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Trade unions in Brazil campaign against pension reforms

19 February, 2019On 20 February, trade unions in Brazil will hold a national day to support universal, public social security and condemn plans to destroy the country's pension system.

They will spend the day campaigning against right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro's proposed pension reform, which seeks to bring an end to pensions.

The proposal, which will be submitted to Congress on 20 February, aims to replace the social security system – in which the State manages the contributions of workers through a single fund that is financed through payroll taxes – with a private pension system.

There would be a gradual transition towards an individual contribution model, in which the amount of each worker's retirement benefits would depend on how much they were able to save during their working life. The proposal is designed to save close to 3 trillion reais (US $830 billion) in public spending over ten years.

According to union leaders, President Bolsonaro signed Provisional Measure 871/2019 on 18 January without first holding consultations with workers, in total disregard of the principles of democracy and the role of the National Social Security Committee.

Few details about the reform have been made public, but union leaders have confirmed that the proposal includes a raft of measures to overhaul the benefits system and entitlement rules, stripping thousands of workers of their right to social security.

The new rules and requirements aim to restrict access to the country’s surviving spouse’s pension, benefits for prisoners’ dependents, maternity leave, continuous disability benefits and pensions for rural workers.

In the 1980s, dictator Augusto Pinochet brought in similar reforms to privatize social security in Chile, where pensions are now managed by six private funds. These funds pay retirees less than four per cent of what their contributions were, which has sparked numerous protests against the system.

IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary, Marino Vani, says:

"We stand by the unions and workers in Brazil. The Government's talk of 'reform' is a lie. What they really want to do is get rid of universal, public pensions that are funded by both employers and employees and bring in a system that is funded exclusively by workers, with companies not required to contribute anything at all. That way, banks will continue making profits, while workers will left with no pensions as their retirement savings are lost to the vagaries of the market."