Brazil: Trade union manifesto urges different approach from Bolsonaro

published 26 May 2020 updated 28 May 2020

In Brazil, the Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educação (CNTE) has issued a manifesto of measures to safeguard public health and workers’ lives.

CNTE leaders have strongly criticised President Jair Bolsonaro’s reaction to the COVID-19 epidemic spreading in the country. Their manifesto includes demands to public authorities to ensure the health and safety of education workers and students.

“The seriousness of the current moment calls for everyone's solidarity,” the union underlined.

Speaking on behalf of “the forgotten, forsaken, and invisible crowds”, the education union explained that “through this Manifesto, educators from Brazil publicly defend human life with the deepest altruistic feelings”.

Collective and supportive actions needed

The union believes that “there is no prospect of a future without collective and supportive actions. Market rules are not able to buffer the suffering of most of the national and global population. Now, more than ever, public services must be guided by universal and responsible rationale for everyone. The way out of the current crisis is through more state and less market-oriented policies detrimental to the population!”

The CNTE leaders condemned the Bolsonaro government’s neoliberal policy of undermining the role of the state and its public workers, which “is proving to be an absolute failure daily”. In the face of the current public health crisis, the Brazilian government’s “contradictory actions” are allowing it to dodge “the true dimension of the problem.”

Epidemic will worsen

The union argues that President Jair Bolsonaro has systematically acted against the policy of lockdown recommended all over the world by public health and scientific authorities. They added that the President has called the population out on to the streets and used public funds to promote a campaign called “Brazil must not stop”.

The CNTE insisted that the epidemic was spreading throughout Brazil and will worsen in the next few weeks, especially if the social isolation policy will be abandoned by public authorities at different levels. Public action is required to protect people's lives through help and support, they noted.

New policies

The government urgently needs to change “its trajectory of uncompromising defence of economic ultraliberalism that stands for a minimum State above everything and everyone”, and must adopt measures “that protect the population and the working class against the viral pandemic”, said the union.

“The taxation of large fortunes, profits, and dividends of rich persons and the increase in property tax rates are urgent and highly effective measures to combat inequality and provide wellbeing to the entire population, especially during times of crisis such as the one we are experiencing.”

They also insisted that a National Congress-approved project instituting a three-month emergency payment to people on low incomes - 600.00 Brazilian reals (up to 1,200.00 Brazilian reals for single mothers; €100-€200) - needs to be immediately implemented.

Trade union Manifesto

The Brazilian education unionists proposed the following measures for the Brazilian society, especially the education community:

  • The implementation of economic and education measures different from those supported by President Bolsonaro, many of which contradict policies of Brazil’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. According to the union, the president is driven exclusively by the immediate interests of business leaders who are not committed to the lives of the population and workers' rights.
  • Maintaining salaries (with no reductions), jobs, income and labour contracts in both public and private sectors through the adoption of decent subsistence policies for Brazilian families, especially those originating from social segments historically marginalised by public policies.
  • Adoption of economic mechanisms that guarantee the compensation for losses imposed upon workers (and not only business leaders), aid for individual microentrepreneurs, and setting up of a (decent) universal minimum income to unemployed, informal workers and poorer families who have been excluded from the country’s Family Allowance Programme since 2016.
  • Taxation of the larger incomes in Brazil to finance policies fighting the pandemic and to support the future social and economic development process while protecting the environment.
  • Uncompromising defence of the national health system and all its professionals, with the government increasing the offer of rapid testing for COVID-19 and the quantity of intensive care beds.
  • Upholding the full closure of Brazilian schools to contain the spread of COVID-19, with public schools being used as spaces to provide services in the framework of other emergency measures that public health and social assistance agencies are responsible for.
  • Defence of people's lives in a broad context, ensuring adequate food provision, especially for poor students and their families. Public authorities must prioritise the purchase of agricultural products as a means of helping them.

More solidarity, quality public health and education

“It is vitally important to start thinking about the future!” urged the CNTE leaders. “Society demands more State and more public policies! More solidarity from the governments at diverse levels and less austerity for the population! More quality public health and education, sanitation, safety. In brief, respect, especially for the poorer and more vulnerable!”