How to lie with statistics

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By AQUILES MELO*

The numbers presented by the federal government to education employees on strike confuse more than they explain, thus demonstrating a lack of interest in resolving the problem

On May 15, 2024, the Lula government, through the Ministry of Management and Innovation in Public Services (MGI), held the second round of the temporary negotiation table after the strike and in which it intended to provide a final solution for the teaching career . Until then, the proposals presented by the government repeated the same mantra: no readjustment in 2024. For the other periods of the government, percentages of 4,5% in 2025 and 4,5% in 2026 were indicated. the lack of resources. Lula/Haddad's New Fiscal Framework associated with the zero deficit target for the year 2024 ended up playing at the expense of fiscal adjustment on the backs of public education employees.

We went on strike. The movement quickly reached more than 550 campuses of Federal Institutes in addition to another 47 Federal Universities. It is the biggest strike in recent history in the country. However, the government has not been treating it to the necessary extent. Quite the opposite. The government's lack of interest in resolving the problem is manifested both by the slowness in calling for a new round of negotiations (around a month), as well as by the blackmail presented at the last negotiation table that, from then on (15/05) , there would be no more proposals to be presented to teachers by the government.

These facts illustrate the lack of commitment of this management towards Education professionals. We will begin our text with a brief retrospective on the (mis)paths of the negotiations carried out between the government and teaching unions and, later, we will make a critical assessment of the last proposal presented.

At the first negotiating table after the strike, held on April 19, 2024, the government made the following proposal[I] for teaching staff: maintaining a 0% adjustment for the year 2024 with a commitment to an adjustment of 9% for 2025 and 3,5% for 2026. Furthermore, as a component of the restructuring of the teaching career, the MGI proposed to increase the steps at levels C 2 to 4 and D 2 to 4, which would increase their values ​​from 4% to 4,5%. Adding the percentages of readjustment and career restructuring – something that should not be done since increases due to restructuring are only felt over several years – the government advertised a readjustment proposal that varied between 12,81% to 16,11% – this considering the readjustment added to the step (figure 1).

Figure 1 – Government proposal made on April 19, 2024

This proposal had a very negative impact on the teaching base. Firstly, because the values ​​would be far below the category's historical losses, which total a percentage of 39,82% for the period 2010-2023.[ii] Secondly, the government did not consider the set of proposals that aimed at restructuring the career such as the establishment of a floor for the category, the structuring of the salary network with 13 levels with steps of 5% in each work regime, the exclusion of classes, the equality of remuneration for title (RT), as well as the possibility of all teachers progressing to the last level regardless of title[iii].

Such restructuring would be important as it would help to recover the historical losses mentioned above in the category. Furthermore, carrying out a restructuring would allow the creation of a higher salary level at the beginning of the career, so that this would have an effect on the entire salary network while making the career more attractive.

Once the government's proposal was rejected and the strike continued, the wall movement intensified. A new negotiating table was requested, however, the government seemed to resist a new agenda. After demands made directly to President Lula, he responded that the MGI would be preparing a new proposal to end the strike in Education. Expectations have risen at the base. After a month of the last negotiation table, the government schedules a new round for May 15th, which would, according to him, be final in nature: there would be no more proposals to be made to teachers, with May 27th being the deadline for the signing of some agreement.

This new meeting began early in the morning of May 15th. It didn't take long for frustration to reach the teaching base, which yearned for a change in the government's stance in the negotiations. Once again, the government offered a 05% adjustment for 0 and maintained the adjustment percentages for 2024 at 2025% and 9% for 3,5. Regarding restructuring, the government proposed a gradual change in the steps for 2026 in which Standards C 2025 a 2 and D 4 to 2 would go from 4% to 4,0%, as well as Standards C 4,5 to 2 and D 4 to 2 would go from 4% to 4,5%. Additionally, the D 5,0 and DIV 1 standard would be decreased from 1% to 25,0%. In 23,5, standards C 2026 to 2 and D 4 to 2 would increase from 4% to 4,5%; the C5,0 standard would increase from 1% to 5,5% and the D 6 and DIV 1 standard would be reduced to 1.

Figure 2 – Proposal presented by the government on May 15

In short, the restructuring proposed by the government did not guarantee a significant adjustment to the career, since the proposed increase in the new steps (1%) would not start from a considerable floor under which the entire career would be structured. Furthermore, it also starts from the premise of redistributing within the salary network the percentages to which the category was already entitled. In other words, instead of proposing the maintenance of achievements with a new increase in the steps, the government chose to redistribute Class D IV readjustment values ​​to play at the lower levels. This mechanism promotes an adjustment in the salary network as it is made up of the gains measured at the previous level multiplied by the value of the step.

As these levels are interrelated, this distribution generates some gain. However, such gains – something close to 4% – could not and should not be counted as readjustment gains. We must also remember that most of the teachers who are active are already at the highest levels of their career and such gains presented by the government are diluted over the 19 years.

If we compare the proposal from April 19th with the new government proposal presented on May 15th, we have an insignificant difference as follows:

Figure 3 – Comparison between the proposals from 19/04 with that from 15/05 –
Source: adaptation of Prof.’s spreadsheet. Henrique Jr (IFCE).

Here it is clear that the “new proposal” is just a simulacrum of the previous proposal. We can clearly see that the gains from this new version are meager when compared. At the DIV-I level, it is even possible to observe a loss between the first and second proposal! But the icing on the cake is the way the government manipulates the data in order to reach such levels in these indicators. To achieve this, a trap was proposed by PROIFES and found support in the government. In the new restructuring proposal presented we find the following novelty: the agglutination of the initial classes (A/DI and B 1/DII 1 in the B 2 /DII 2 category) which would, according to the government, be intended to guarantee greater attractiveness and readjustment in this stage.

In other words, instead of the government working with the proposal to create a new floor for the teaching career, so that it would become attractive for the career and have repercussions on the entire salary network, the government chose to eliminate the levels career beginnings. This elimination has been touted by the government – ​​and uncritically replicated by the unions – as if it had guaranteed a 31% adjustment!!!

It is serious that teaching unions replicate this speech on their pages when what was effectively achieved was a cut in initial levels without any impact on the salary network as a whole! A future teacher who enters the federal career in 40 hours, with a doctorate and under the Exclusive Dedication regime in 2026 will receive a salary R$3.272,31 higher than today. However, this elevation did not have any impact on the rest of his career. How can this new proposal be perceived as an evolution of the previous proposal if the impacts are minimal for active teachers?

SINASEFE also replicated on its pages (see figure 4) the government's propaganda that it had granted adjustments to teachers of up to 43%! Now, it is known that this information is not true, at least not in the form in which it is announced. The calculation made by the government mixes the adjustment percentages with the restructuring gains, creating the illusion of a higher percentage of gains. However, these will only be noticed over the course of a 19-year career, and it makes no sense to be counted as an adjustment. Furthermore, the value claimed by SINASEFE was 22,71% adjustment added to gains that would arise from career restructuring.

Why now does the union not repudiate the government's calculations when they imply that the government's proposal met up to twice what was requested by the teaching category? [iv] It doesn't make sense to compute this the way it was done. After removing the values ​​generated by the restructuring, what is the effective percentage of adjustment that was guaranteed by the government? The union does not know how to answer this question.

Figure 4 – SINASEFE post made on May 15, 2024.

Furthermore, a fundamental element continues to be ignored by the government: the federal teaching career does not even receive the minimum value for teaching. Instituted in 2008, the teaching minimum law envisages Basic Education teachers receiving a minimum amount in their base salary. For the year 2024, this value is R$4.580,57. It is worth mentioning that today, the base salary of a 40-hour EBTT teacher is R$3.412,63, a value 25,5% lower than that required by law! In other words, if the government – ​​and also the unions – were interested in guaranteeing an attractive floor for the teaching career, why not just choose to follow the law?

And here we come to the crux of our situation. In 2012, SINASEFE filed a lawsuit (action registered in the Federal Court under no. 0051246-35.2012.4.01.3400) requesting that the teaching minimum value be met.[v] Amazingly, the case won in the first instance and has been stuck in court since 2014! Furthermore, if only the law were complied with, its effect on the salary scale for a 40-hour full-time teacher would be:

Figure 5 – Current salary range for the EBTT career if only the Teaching Floor were respectedElaborated by: Movimento PisoJá

In other words, the mere application of the Law by the government – ​​which should be the requirement of our union – would already guarantee in our career the structuring of an attractive floor as well as its effects on the entire salary network. Furthermore, it would cover practically all requests for adjustments since 2010 (somewhere around 39,82%).

There is still a factor to be explored regarding the issue of data manipulation by the government. It is known that its propaganda machine is very strong. And the way in which he disseminates his information has a specific purpose: as he announces that he has met the teachers' demands, at the same time, he plays with public opinion in the sense of building an idea that any demonstration contrary to the end of the strike will take place due to an exaggeration of the demands made by education professionals.

Who doesn't remember Lula's speech on May 07th, where he stated that “but negotiations are always like this… I asked for 05, you know? And they offered me 10, and I didn't want them. But between 2 and 10 there is 2, there is 3, there is 4, there is 5”[vi]. This construction has the meaning of saying that the government is available for negotiation, but that teachers would need to give in on their demands!

Furthermore, it is important to understand how the government arrives at the numbers presented, since the way it does so confuses more than it explains. So, let's see:

Figure 6 – MGI announcement replicated by the Ministry of Education with false data about the proposal for teachers. Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/C7ALsIernTE/

This card constitutes one of the propaganda materials published by the government. The announced adjustment is between 23% and 43% until 2026. Now, if we know that our union asked for 22,71% and this amount was not met, where does the government get these numbers from?

Let's look at the table below. In it we project the current salary values ​​for a teacher graduated 40 hours without Exclusive Dedication, for a teacher with a Doctorate level 40 hours under the Exclusive Dedication regime and the values ​​proposed for the latter in 2026. What we have is that the government's move to eliminate the initial levels generated a statistical effect in which, even without implying any impact on the career, the starting value of this increased by around 43%. Without this effect, we can see that the government's proposal that actually has some impact on the salary range varies between 23% (DIII-2) and 28,2% (Incumbent). And these numbers are only reached if we add the value of the 2023 adjustment and the gains due to the restructuring (gains that will not necessarily be felt now).

Figure 7 – Spreadsheet with teaching career salaries, variation in the adjustment proposed by the government, real gains in the period 2023-2026 and effective career losses since 2016.

The use of the number of 43%, even though it statistically represents this value, only affects a few teachers who are still on probation in the year 2026. Today, this number corresponds to something around 6,5% of the total number of teachers adding the EBTT and MS careers. However, by then (2026), most of these will no longer be in this salary range. In this sense, more than 90% of the EBTT and MS career will have recovery ranging between 12,8% and 17,6% (see figure 2 – red column) while the benefits of this increase in the initial value will only be felt by the teachers who come to enter public service.

But we must look in a little more detail at this initial value propagated by the government. The advertisement (figure 6) indicates an initial career value of R$9.916 (sic)[vii] to R$13.753 in 2026. The intention here is, clearly, to manipulate public opinion. THE DATA IS FALSE! The starting teaching salary for the 40-hour Federal Teaching career without Exclusive Dedication is today R$3.142,63 which, as we have previously highlighted, does not even reach the minimum teaching salary. In 2026 this value will be R$4.477 and not R$13.753, therefore still below the current teaching floor! What the government did was take the starting salary for a 40-hour professor, at doctorate level and with Exclusive Dedication, and set it as if this were the beginning of their career.

In this sense, the government takes the salary of the most valued career for media exposure, although this does not effectively correspond to the reality of teachers. The same false information was replicated to the career ceiling. If we look again at table 7, we will see that a full professor at undergraduate level at the end of his career would only reach R$7.285,77 and not the R$26.326 announced.

Based on the inflation recorded in 2023 (4,62%), as well as those projected for 2024 (3,8%), 25 (3,6%) and 26 (3,5%), we will have an accumulated inflation projected at 16,44% at the end of the Lula government. Thus, the real gain with the government's current proposal, already adding here to the 9% readjustment given in 2023, would guarantee a variation between 5% and 10% of real gain throughout the entire career – remembering that our losses compute something in around 39,82%.[viii] It is worth noting that the inflation numbers above are just projections that can vary quickly depending on the evolution of the government's economic policy. If there is an increase in projected inflation rates, real gains may be reduced.

The government, in these negotiations, uses a set of subterfuges to inflate the adjustment rates and shift public opinion against the teachers' strike. In recent research[ix], Quaest published that 78% of the population considers the teachers' strike to be fair and only 19% consider it unfair. To reverse this, without losing popularity, the government combines the readjustment values ​​with the restructuring values ​​in its data, eliminates career levels, adds them to the 2023 linear adjustment values, inserts steps into the account, in short, presents a whole set of information that creates more confusion than it actually informs. And that is the intention. It is necessary to create a different perception in society so that it puts pressure on employees to return to their normal activities.

Now, if the ultimatum of negotiations has been given, what are we left with?

Well, we need to understand this moment better. The Federal Education strike is not in crisis. The latest proposal presented by the government had repercussions contrary to expectations. The various national bases are already pointing to the rejection of the proposal and intensification of the wall movement. Even the rank and file of PROIFES, the government's employers' union, are unhappy and announcing that the proposal is immoral. It is worth mentioning that, even if PROIFES signs the agreement in spite of its base, this has a negligible numerical effect on our strike. SINASEFE and ANDES together represent the real strength of this movement.

It is up to the bases of these unions to reject the government's proposal and intensify street actions. We cannot, at this moment, fall into the myth that once PROIFES signs, the strike will end. This is false! The strike ends when we give up the fight and this is not the time for that. Just for illustration purposes, the strike by Federal Revenue Service (RF) employees only achieved an adjustment after 81 days of strike! Let us remember that the Federal Revenue Service is the State department responsible for government revenue. The strike by IBAMA employees continues to last four months. It is worth remembering that no education strike was resolved in the first month of negotiations. In other words, there is still a lot of water to roll and a lot of fighting to be done.

In this sense, we have no alternative other than refusing the government's proposal and fighting for greater salary recovery! We need to replace our historical losses and these will only be possible to remedy with measures that impact the entire category, in this case, with the increase in the recovery rates proposed by the government. Let us remember that, recently, Central Bank employees were given an adjustment of 10,9% in 2025 and 10,9% in 2026. If our losses are greater than theirs, what is the point of not being able to reach at least these percentages? ?

Now, the most important thing at this moment is that the teaching staff and TAES are unified in their fight. It is essential that, in the next assemblies, the civil servants vote to reject the government's proposal! Let's keep fighting!

*Aquiles Melo is professor of Sociology and Philosophy of Science at the Federal Institute of Education of Ceará (IFCE).

Notes


[I] https://sinasefe.org.br/site/carreira-docente-governo-repete-proposta-feita-aos-taes-greve-continua/

[ii] https://www.andes.org.br/diretorios/files/renata/2023/Agosto01/Anexo1-Circ279-23.pdf

[iii] View at: https://sinasefe.org.br/site/download/4a-mesa-temporaria-e-especifica-da-carreira-docente-informe-da-cnd/

[iv] After writing this article, SINASEFE released a note through its National Strike Command about the distortions made by the government regarding teachers' remuneration. This note can be accessed through the link: https://sinasefe.org.br/site/governo-federal-distorce-informacoes-sobre-remuneracao-de-professorases-federais/

[v] https://sinasefe.org.br/memoria/2014/03/13/sinasefe-derrota-a-uniao-em-processo-sobre-o-piso-nacional-dos-professores/

[vi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcw9198gamY

[vii] The government makes a mistake in the number. The real value of the starting salary in 2022 corresponded to R$9.616,18, and not R$9.916,00 as explained.

[viii] Here we chose to exclude the entry value because it is the result of career flattening.

[ix] https://oglobo.globo.com/blogs/ancelmo-gois/post/2024/05/o-que-os-brasileiros-pensam-sobre-as-greves-nas-universidades-federais.ghtml


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