Thousands of Brazilians to go on strike against pension reforms on Friday

The countrywide general strike is against the proposed pension reforms that are likely to raise the average retirement age. A wide range of demands, including higher spending for education and a halt to privatization of refineries, are also being raised

June 13, 2019 by Brasil de Fato
The central trade unions will carry out protests this Friday in a general strike in the principle cities of the country. Photo: Mídia Ninja

Thousands of Brazilian workers will go on strike for 24 hours on Friday, June 14, against a proposal for pension reform which the government of Jair Bolsonaro is trying to hastily push through the Chamber of Deputies. The general strike will mobilize diverse sections of Brazilian society, from bus drivers to petroleum sector workers and students to electricians.

The new reform would lead to Brazilians having to contribute much more to their pensions and working many more years. As per the current system, men who have contributed to the pension system for 35 years can retire at any age, as can women who have contributed to the system for 30 years. Thus, the average for retirement age for both men and women is around 55. However, according to the new system,  the minimum age of retirement would be 65 years for men and 62 years for women. For teachers, the minimum retirement age would be 60.

In addition to the common issue of pension reform, various sectors are highlighting specific demands during the strike. The United Federation of Petroleum Workers joined the call for the mobilization to express their rejection of the projects which attack the sovereignty of the country that were started during the government of Michel Temer and have been intensified by Jair Bolsonaro.

“We can count the number of refineries that have been privatized, the closure of oil platforms in Ceará, and the dismantling of the Petrobras system,” said the federation’s director, Alexandre Finamori.

The government of Jair Bolsonaro has already announced the sale of 13 refineries of Petrobras. The contract between the state company and the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Cade) was signed on June 11, with a timeline of two years being announced for the sale of the units. “The employees are scared of working because of the precarious conditions, and this is the path towards privatization of the company,” he said.

Students, professors and functionaries of the universities and federal institutes, who are in the middle of a major mobilization against budget cuts in education, are also joining the strike.

The president of the National Union of Students, Jessy Dayane, said they plan to bring activities to a halt at most universities in Brazil in what will be a continuation of the student protests that brought more than a million people to the streets. “In all the spaces where we have built dialogue, debate and preparatory processes for the strike, the support is very high,” she said.

Dayane also said the youth would be among the groups most affected by the pension reform.

“Our challenge in this period is to share information, raise the consciousness of the students, debate, hand out fliers and explain to our classmates what is the pension reform, because everyone who knows what it is, is against it,” she said.

“The youth will be greatly affected by the new rules. If the pension reform is passed, the students of today will have to work much more or probably will never be able to retire,” she added.

Dayane pointed out that there are 13.2 million unemployed people in the country, according to statistics by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).