BRAZIL came to a virtual standstill yesterday as trade unionists halted public transport and closed down much of the economy in protest at coup-installed President Michel Temer’s anti-working class policies. Demonstrators blocked roads and scuffled with police in many cities, showing their anger over the Temer government’s attacks on workplace rights and pensions.
The president, whose disapproval ratings have soared to 87 per cent, insists that “flexibility” will revive a moribund economy and claims that the pension system will go bankrupt without changes.
Dozens of trade unions and community groups supporting the strike insist that the changes pushed through the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday will make workers too vulnerable and strip away too many benefits.
The president is also proposing a 20-year freeze on public spending.
His plan would undermine workers’ rights by eliminating travel expenses from their contracts, reducing compensation for employer abuse and, most importantly, allowing employers to reduce’ salaries while increasing working hours.
Most trains and metro lines in Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city, did not run during the height of the morning commute and all buses stayed off the roads.
Demonstrators carrying posters demanding Mr Temer’s removal blocked traffic on all but one lane of a major motorway.
Police used tear gas to break up protests blocking roads to Congonhas airport, the smaller of Sao Paulo’s two airports.
A group of homeless people and activists blocked a road to the larger Guarulhos airport for some time.
The economy is currently in deep recession, making many Brazilians frustrated with the president and highly sceptical of his assertions that the proposed changes will benefit them in the long run.
Underscoring the economic malaise, the IBGE statistics agency announced yesterday that unemployment had jumped to 13.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year, up from 12 per cent.
“Here in Brazil, they are robbing workers’ rights with these pension and labour reforms,” said union leader Reginal de Souza.
“We are here to say this is enough and that we are against all this nonsense that the government … is doing to the workers and to all the Brazilian people.”
Source: Morning Star / RedGlobe