Union supporters march in an anti-impeachment demo in Sao Paolo, March 2016. Photo: Bannach
TUC backs Brazilian unions: no to the coup!
You may have seen some stories in the media about political developments in Brazil, where the forces who used to dominate the country while it was under military dictatorship and then in the years after democracy was restored are trying to force Workers’ Party President Dilma Rousseff from power. The TUC is backing our colleagues in the Brazilian trade union movement in their defence of the democratically elected government, and this is why.
The opponents of Dilma say this is about corruption, but the only charges they have been able to lay against her are that she talked up Brazil’s economic performance before she was re-elected President. If the electorate thought she had exaggerated, they could punish her party at the polls when her term of office ends. But the Brazilian elite don’t trust the electorate, especially as the next Workers’ Party candidate could well be the hugely popular former President Lula, who served for the maximum two consecutive terms before Dilma took over his mantle. They’re also trying to prevent Lula’s return, but again, can’t find any evidence of personal corruption – so they are pressing for impeachment of Dilma instead.
In reality, it is the Brazilian elite who are corrupt – as even the Economist accepted last week, in a generally anti-Dilma article that questioned the semantics of calling this a coup. The Economist said that:
“There is no evidence that she is personally corrupt. Unlike her lead accuser, Eduardo Cunha, the Speaker of Congress’s lower house, neither she nor her family have Swiss bank accounts or Panamanian offshore companies. Many of her would-be impeachers are accused of taking bribes in the scandal centred on Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company.”
The TUC backs the letter that appeared in the Guardian this week (co-signed by Manuel Cortes from TSSA, RMT’s Mick Cash and Kevin Courtney and Tony Burke, AGSes of NUT and Unite respectively.) And the leading trade union confederation in Brazil, which supports the Workers’ Party, has been joined in opposing the coup by the second biggest confederation, Forca Sindical. CUT’s leadership wrote to the TUC this week, and here is what they had to say:
“As you are aware, the political situation in Brazil is unfortunately deteriorating quite rapidly – and there is a real danger of the trades-union-supported President of Brazil (our countries first female leader, Dilma Rousseff, leader of the Workers Party) being undemocratically removed from office by the right and replaced by a right-wing president, without going through the ballot box. This would be the first time in Brazil that a left-wing government has been undemocratically removed from power since the military coup of 1964.
“In our view, such a right-wing seizure of power would gravely threaten hard-won workers’ rights in Brazil. Right-wing interests (employers’ organisations etc that back the current rightist plans to stage a political coup d’etat) have officially pledged to try to scrap legal rights to…
- Maternity leave
- Annual holiday entitlement
- Year-end bonus payments
- Payment in double for overtime
- FGTS (Guarantee Fund for Length of Service) redundancy payments
“They also plan to…
- Arbitrarily reduce working hours and implement corresponding reductions in wages
- End the slavery-prevention workplace inspection system
- Discontinue fines against employers in cases of unfair dismissal
- Discontinue workers’ rights to claim compensation in labour courts
- Increase sub-contracting of core activities so as to reduce wages and workers’ rights.
“The right’s current campaign to remove the democratically-elected president is not only undemocratic but is also totally unjustified.
“President Rousseff has not been accused by any judicial authority of committing any illegal actions. Instead, right-wing politicians in Congress are trying to impeach her – ostensibly on the flimsy basis that her government had borrowed money from a government-owned bank in order to frustrate right-wing congressional attempts to withhold funds from crucial government poverty-alleviation programmes. The temporary use of government bank funds has been common practice by previous governments and has never before been challenged.
“Extremely anti-workers’-rights opposition politicians – backed by big business and much of the press – is seeking to paralyse the government and the economy, so that they can undemocratically remove our country’s elected president and seize power.
“Political opinion in the country is rapidly polarising. Substantial violence has erupted. Many Labour movement and progressive activists have been physically attacked – and several have lost their lives at the hands of right wing extremists. A substantial number of labour movement offices have also been attacked. Some have been set on fire.
“An undemocratic overthrow of our government and a seizure of power by the right would be likely to contribute to increased political and economic instability elsewhere in Latin America.”