Brazil: Workers react against union sabotage

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In Brazil, “after the massive job losses (75% of personnel) at the Varig aeronautical company last spring, it’s the turn of the employees of the Volkswagen factories in the industrial belt of Sao Paulo (ABC). (…) It’s the ABC metalworkers’ union that, in collaboration with the bosses of Volkswagen, fixed the quota of 3600 job cuts staged up to 2008. In the assemblies, the atmosphere was extremely intimidating, with the unions using blackmail about more job cuts if the workers didn’t accept the proposals for voluntary redundancies. In the assembly where the agreement was concluded, the unions were booed, labelled as ‘sell-outs’ and accused of having swindled the workers. (…) But that’s not all: the workers who are going to keep their jobs are going to see their wages cut from 1-2% due to increased social security costs, that too with the assent of the unions”. (Extract from a joint declaration by the Brazilian group Workers’ Opposition - OPOP – and the ICC).

In Brazil again, bank employees, whose numbers have dropped in twenty years from one million to 400,000, went on strike for a week for wage demands, despite the union exhorting them not to strike because of the electoral campaign.

Every September in Brazil the campaign for wage claims for bank employees takes place. Regularly, this campaign involves strikes that have only resulted in a very modest slowdown of the attacks on wages. In less than 5 years wages in the state banks have lost a considerable amount of buying power. This year, due to the elections, the unions decided to postpone the campaign for wage claims so as to not coincide with the electoral campaign. But the bank employees decided otherwise. They stopped the manoeuvre of the cartel of unions including the CUT. The general assemblies, though called and held by the unions, decided to strike against the advice of the same unions and their national representation, in the towns or states of: Bahia, Porto Alegre, Florianoplis and Pernambuco. Some general assemblies elected delegates in order to set up a national co-ordination. The great majority of elected delegates did not represent any union and many didn’t belong to the union at all. In Salvador, the delegation elected was made up of our comrades from OPOP. Faced with the extension of the struggle at the national level and the danger of being openly repudiated by the workers, the unions declared a strike while manoeuvring to keep the workers of the banks of Sao Paulo from entering the struggle. When they finally convoked a general assembly to decree the strike in this town, the workers concerned weren’t content to passively accept the union’s orders. On Wednesday October 4 they insisted on having their say and violently confronted the union goons that surrounded and protected the praesidium, composed of the unions’ mafia bosses who had tried to preserve a monopoly on speaking.

Finally the unions succeeded in bringing the movement to an end by means of a gross manoeuvre. They made Sao Paulo and Brasilia go back to work – which demoralised the others towns in the struggle – by convoking general assemblies in which they ensured a massive participation by non-strikers. At the same time the striking workers were more or less kept in the dark about what was going on elsewhere.  

(Translated from Revolution Internationale)

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