Counterproposal from the Andes National Strike Command

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By ALBERTO HANDFAS

Negotiations at the Table have been very difficult by the government representatives themselves

The Andes-SN National Strike Command (CNG) presented a counter-proposal for a salary adjustment to the Federal Teaching Special Negotiation Table early in the morning of May 27th. However, in the late afternoon of the same day, the representation of the Ministry of Management and Innovation announced the unilateral rupture of negotiations and signed an agreement based on its proposal. Presented on May 15, this proposal was widely rejected by the teaching base in hundreds of assemblies and, even so, it was used by the government to forge an agreement signed outside the Board with an illegitimate and unrepresentative entity, Proifes.

Even so, the National Strike Command insists on continuing negotiations with the government, demanding that it immediately reopen negotiations. This article seeks to evaluate the counter-proposal prepared by the National Strike Command and point out the differences between it and the government's proposal. Here it is shown how much more appropriate, fair and opportune the teaching category is in relation to this one; and how feasible its budgetary impact would be.

Government's final proposal

The proposal from the Ministry of Management and Innovation consists of: (i) Linear adjustment (the same % for all career segments) of 12,8% until 2026 to be granted in installments: 0% in 2024; 9% in January 2025 and 3,5% in May 2026. (ii) Differentiated adjustments depending on the career segment: The steps between levels of the same class (which are currently 4%) increase by 0,5% in 2025 and again in 2026, when it would be 5%. The step between the Deputy and Associate classes would be changed from the current 25% to 23,5% and 22,5% respectively in 2025 and 2026. (After insistence from CNG-Andes, it was accepted that the step for Deputy 1 would also increase from 5,5 .6% to XNUMX%). The classes at the lower end of the career ladder – Assistant, Assistant and Assistant A and B – would have the same salary (there would no longer be steps between them).

Table 1 below illustrates the government's proposal according to the changes in the steps throughout the MS and EBTT careers (3rd to 5th column), the % variations in salaries between 2024 and 2026 that such changes in the steps would generate (6th column) and that the linear adjustment would generate (7th column). The total readjustment of the steps (different for each segment of the career) together (accumulated) with the linear adjustment (equal to all) suggested by MGI can be seen in the last column of the table.

Tabela 1: Latest MGI proposal presented on May 15/2024 (DE, PhD)

When presenting this proposal, the government representative on the Board, Secretary of Labor Relations of the Ministry of Management and Innovation (MGI), José Feijóo, already announced that this would be his last proposal, that he would no longer accept negotiation. Knowing in advance that representatives of the Proifes federation would sign such an agreement in any case, he stated – in an ultimatum – that if other representatives of the union bench did not want to sign, they would be left without any agreement, as no other would be offered. The Andes and Sinasefe CNGs claimed, however, that they had barely made contact with the proposal (full of details and complexities due to changes in the steps and the consequent highly differentiated adjustments to each career segment) and that they therefore requested a new round negotiation at the Table. Something rejected by José Feijóo, who repeated that this was his last proposal.

The professors at the table (except the Proifes representative, who had his pen in his hand, eager to sign the document), argued that not only would they need to study the proposal and calculate its specific and general impacts, but they also felt obliged to send it to it to the bases before being able to respond. Representatives of the two CNGs present demanded democracy and union legitimacy, reminding the MGI Secretary (himself a former union member) that regardless of what they personally thought of the proposal, they could not sign anything without the General Assemblies (AGs) of the sections unions and the Local Strike Commands (CLG) of Andes and Sinasefe in hundreds of Universities and Federal Institutes across the country whether or not they gave their consent.

After much insistence, José Feijóo agreed to schedule a new meeting of the Federal Teaching Council on May 27th. However, the impasse continued to hover over the Board: now regarding the nature of such a meeting. The government representative only agreed to sit down on that day to receive the unions' signatures on an agreement based on his proposal. The unionists, obviously, considered that the meeting – if it were a true Negotiation Table – would only make sense if it was open to debate on counter-proposals, or at least to small amendments and/or final suggestions to such a government proposal.

The history of the education strike

The fact is that since last year, negotiations at the Bureau have been largely blocked by government representatives themselves. The 2024 rounds of the Board began in July 2023. At the end of August, the Executive sent its PLOA to Congress without any provision of funds for the readjustment of civil servants – it was the result of the approval that same week of the New Fiscal Framework and the Zero deficit target for 2024. Of course, Centrão's various attempts to hijack the budget and sabotage the Lula government only made the situation worse.

In the following meetings of the Bureau - which was subdivided into Specific Bureaus (for each category) from the end of September 2023 -, MGI representatives simply repeated: “there is no space in the Budget; so 0% in 2024, maybe something (4,5%) in 2025 and 2025”. This mantra, formalized in November/December, was repeated in all other meetings until the end of April. This showed that there was in fact no room for negotiation on the part of the government. Fonasefe, a forum for civil servant unions, on the contrary, sought to demonstrate willingness to negotiate: it filed with the MGI in January 2024 a new agenda with a more modest inflation recovery rate (instead of losses since 2010, only losses from 2017).

And, to make matters worse, while it froze in facts (not in speech) the negotiation of most SPFs (including those for Federal Education), the government announced the granting of considerable adjustments (including a portion in 2024) to federal police officers and other categories (Bank Central, Ibama, Funai, Tax Auditors) – some of them only after carrying out strikes or stoppages; others didn't even need it.

This year, all of this led to enormous frustration at the base of the National Education categories. Teachers and Technicians have not only been forced to live on deeply depreciated salaries, but their working conditions are also extremely precarious. Laboratories are scrapped, classrooms are falling apart, buildings that should have been built almost ten years ago – with the expansion of Reuni – haven't even gotten off the ground. Students have their grants (including those for permanence and assistance) cut or completely depreciated (for years without inflationary correction).

After years and years of funding cuts with the 2016 coup and its Spending Ceiling, the university communities – which for the most part fought against the coup and against Jair Bolsonaro from the beginning – engaged in the Lula campaign to “replace the people in budget” and end fiscal ceilings and limitations that attack Education and Public Universities. But after almost two years of government, the situation has not been reversed. The 2024 budget continues to be around R$2,5 billion smaller than that of 2017. Just to return to the pre-Coup level (pre Teto Temer/EC95) it would therefore be necessary to supplement the budget by more than 40%.

Technicians and teachers therefore launched their strikes precisely to press for the opening of actual negotiations at the Tables. They made it clear in numerous campaign materials that their movement is not against the government, but – on the contrary – it is an instrument of struggle in the dispute for the public budget against the government's enemies (including those who have lodged themselves within the government, such as Centrão ministers and defenders of anti-public services fiscalism). And it was the strike that, in fact, made the government, for the first time in more than six months, relax its stance – albeit very limited and truncated.

The MGI agreed to meet the movement's demand by calling an extraordinary meeting of the Board only on 19/04, a week after the outbreak of the teaching strike at universities and raised its proposal there – by 3,5%, only in 2025-26. With the growth of the strike, a new meeting was called on May 15th, where José Feijóo presented his “final and final proposal”, already unilaterally announcing the end of the negotiation.

CNG's counterproposal

In the week and a half that followed, Assemblies of professors at 53 federal universities and around 80 Federal Institutes were held, bringing together more than 10 thousand university professors in person, in addition to several thousand other Federal Institutes – representing just over 130 thousand active on the base spread over almost a thousand in the capitals as well as in the corners of the country. Practically all of them rejected the MGI proposal by a large majority, maintained the strike and suggested points for a counter-proposal, the preparation of which was mandated to the CNGs (from Andes and Sinasefe).

The Andes CNG, after collecting suggestions and deliberations from the base GAs, prepared a counter-proposal and filed it with the MGI before the meeting on 27/05. Regarding exclusively the salary adjustment, it points to a linear adjustment only. Rejects the scheme of changes to career steps in the MGI proposal. It thus reiterates that, immediately, the most urgent demand (and which – not by chance – is one of the main motivators of the strike) is the urgent replacement of inflation, the same as every category. Career restructuring should indeed be discussed; but later and more calmly.

Understanding the urgency of the advanced stage of negotiation, the CNG-Andes agreed to make the demand more flexible (once again) in the name of the goodwill of the category in dialogue with the government – ​​a category that is aware of the political difficulties (in the reactionary Congress, dominated by the Centrão /Boslonaristas) cyclical. Instead of recovering the (partial) loss of Temer-Bolsonaro (22,7%), only an intermediate (smaller) index was presented, of 18,85% to be split: 3,68% (the IPCA accumulated in 12 months) in August 2024; 9% in 2025; and 5,16% in 2026.

Table 2 shows the differences in the general adjustment scheme proposed by MGI and CNG-Andes:

Tabela 2: general outline of the proposal and counterproposal

Which of the two proposals will bring the biggest (and best) final accumulated adjustment, between today (June 2024) and June 2026? Now, as illustrated in Table 3, this depends on the career segment in which the teacher is located – given that the government offers adjustments (via changes in steps) that are very unequal between them. But it is clear that for the vast majority of the category, the CNG-Andes adjustment is considerably greater. Furthermore, because it is egalitarian – as an inflationary replacement should be –, the CNG-Andes proposal is much more appropriate and fair.

Tabela 3: MGI Proposal and CNG Counterproposal

It is worth noting that, except for the lower ends of the career (A1/DI1 and A2 DI2), all other segments did not receive sufficient adjustments to recover the inflationary losses of the Temer-Bolsonaro period. It turns out that teachers who are in such positions are a tiny minority (Particularly at Federal Universities, for some time now there have been almost no competitions for teachers other than Adjuncts with a Doctorate requirement). And even in the case of the higher portion (Professor and Associate 4), in addition to not representing majority segments, the adjustment offered – despite being greater than that offered to the vast majority of the category – is still lower even than the counter-proposal (already lowered) presented by CNG-Andes.

Table 4 presents the distribution of the teaching population (MS and EBTT; active and retired/pensioners) by classes and career levels in the year 2023. And, in its last column, it presents an estimate of how such a distribution will tend towards 2026, when the portions of the adjustment proposed by the government are completed.

Tabela 4: distribution % of teachers in the career
Source: FalaBR Platform. Author's own elaboration

It is noted that in fact the vast majority, almost 65% of the category (including active, retired and pensioners), is today in the “middle” of their career – between Assistant 1 and Associate 3. If we include Assistant (B2/DII2) , this share approaches 68%. And it is expected that in 2026 such shares will approach 66% and 70% respectively. And, back to Table 3, it is also noted that the readjustment rates derived exclusively from changes to steps offered to this vast majority (according to the MGI proposal) are small, ranging from 0% to 3,5%.

The weighted average (by the number of teachers in each segment of the category) of the adjustments for the entire career in 2026 should be 16,4% and is, therefore, considerably lower than the simple average of the adjustments for each segment. And the weighted average of the vast majority (the 66% that represents the portion between Assistant 1 and Associate 3) is even lower: 15,15%.

Tabela 5: weighted average of adjustments, total and the vast majority – nominal and real

As indicated in Table 5, for the majority (two thirds) of the category, the MGI proposal would result in an average (weighted) adjustment 3,7% lower than that based on equitable linear replacement proposed by CNG-Andes. This is important, especially considering that current inflation, during the current government (between 2023 and 2026), is expected to reach (or even exceed) 16,7% and erode a considerable part of the readjustment itself. This would mean, according to the MGI's proposal, that the majority of teachers would end up facing a salary at the end of President Lula's term that was only slightly (between 4% and 7%) higher than that existing at the end of Jair Bolsonaro's misrule.

CNG-Andes' counterproposal allows for a real recovery greater than 11%, as illustrated in Figure 1. In the recent trajectory of the weighted average salary of 66% of teachers (Associate 1 to Associate 3), the sharp drop in the Michel Temer period -Jair Bolsonaro is only very partially recovered in any case. But with the government's current proposal, such a recovery is considerably weaker.

Budget Impacts

CNG-Andes' counterproposal assumes a short-term wage recovery (until 2026) much smaller than what is necessary for the category. This demonstrates the willingness of the teaching movement to dialogue with the federal government as well as its concerns about dealing with adverse conditions in Congress. Even though a good part of such concerns are – in the opinion of the majority of the union movement – ​​self-imposed by restrictions on social spending determined by the New Fiscal Framework and by exaggerated concessions to Centrão and the “markets” and media, the CNG-Andes sought to elaborate its proposition without it resulting in compromising budgetary impacts.

Tabela 6: budgetary cost of the MGI proposal vs. CNG-Andes

Table 6 shows that the need for budgetary supplementation to the government Payroll is only on average a little over half a billion reais per year (deflated) to meet the demand of the entire teaching category – active, pensioners and retirees – of the Federal Education. This is an amount less than 0,1% of what is spent on interest on public debt or no more than 1% of what is spent on parliamentary amendments. Something that is not difficult to manage, if there is political willingness to do so, even more so with the increase in revenue at the beginning of the year and the resulting release of R$15 billion from the NAF limits in an agreement in Congress.

Conclusions – counter-proposal and reopening of negotiations

When formulating its counterproposal, CNG-Andes sought to unify the category's general concerns and demands at the current and critical moment of the Federal Teachers' Salary Campaign:

(1) The proposal presented by the MGI on 15/05 very partially covers the inflationary losses of the recent past. Considering current inflation and its expectations for the next two years, the proposed readjustment scheme will keep salaries for the vast majority of the category very out of date.

(2) Such a proposal is unfair and divisive. It offers different replacement rates for each career segment, unjustifiably deepening income inequalities between colleagues with the same academic background and professional responsibilities. For example, by recovering much more of the salary of Holders than that of Assistants 1 or 2, the proposal follows the trend of the last two agreements (2012 and 2015): the total income (Basic Salary + Remuneration for Title) of a Holder with doctorate was, until 2013, less than 1,4 times higher than that of an Adjunct 1. In that year, it became 1,6; and in 2019, it became 1,75. Under the current proposal, it will become 1,8 times larger.

(3) The scheme of differentiated readjustments, via changes in the steps, does not follow nor does it appear to have been motivated by any rational logic aimed at career improvement, whether by incentives for academic-scientific productivity, or by mechanisms that take into account the needs of the University Public and its underlying social functions. The only possible criterion that seems to have been adopted was that of optimizing appearances. In other words, an attempt was made to maximize the publicity of supposed salary “increases” by subjecting it to the minimization of budgetary costs. Thus, the biggest adjustments were granted to the extremes of the career, to the segments with the smallest number of teachers. And in the segments in which the vast majority of the category is found, the readjustments were considerably smaller.

The simple arithmetic average of the adjustments gives the misleading impression that the adjustment is greater than it actually is. Worse: on May 15th, MGI started publishing advertising cards with only extreme examples, such as the 05% increase in Auxiliary, despite this segment representing just over 31,2% of the MS! The cost to the budget for so few people, even though it is a more robust salary increase, ends up being much lower than it would be for a more modest adjustment, but equal to the entire category. This device had already been adopted to a certain extent in the career restructuring agreements of 1 and 2012. In addition to having further messed up the career, those agreements and this current one have another thing in common: they were created by the directors of the (increasingly illegitimate and non-representative) Proifes with the government.

(4) It is a fact that one of the demands of the teaching category, expressed in its current list of demands, is the restructuring of the teaching career. But this must be done through a serious and in-depth debate about what career the Brazilian Public University needs. Therefore, after meeting the urgent and emergency demand, which is the recovery of inflationary losses – which every worker and public servant is entitled to, regardless of their career position. In fact, one of the priorities of such Restructuring is precisely to correct the distortions that have been introduced by recent salary agreements that purposely confused career adjustments with inflationary recovery (always pressured by budget restrictions).

One of the corrections would be to reduce – instead of increasing – the salary gaps between career segments (adjuncts, associates or full professors) for teachers with the same degrees and academic training, as well as professional administrative and research, teaching and extension responsibilities. But above all, it is also necessary to prioritize Exclusive Dedication over the 40h and 20h regimes, something that was also distorted in the last agreements to the detriment of the first. Problem not even touched on in the current government proposal.

(5) The unilateral rupture in the negotiations by the MGI representative at the Board and his disrespectful stance towards union democracy made him impose an agreement rejected by the immense majority of the teaching base in democratic assemblies. Made him force his subscription with Proifes, an entity without any base support. Firstly, because it represents less than 10% of the category; then because in the universities where it operates, the majority of base assemblies voted against the agreement and in favor of maintaining the strike.

And all this, instead of cooling down the wall movement, strengthened it and – in fact – led to its growth. In the last two weeks, CNG-Andes has received several new members of the higher education strike, which is already made up of 56 Universities and 8 Federal Higher Education Institutions. And to date, all the assemblies held after the ill-fated signing of the agreement with the ghost leadership of Proifes (phantom, as almost all the assemblies of their own sections voted against the signing of such an agreement) maintain the strike and demand that the government consider void the supposed signed agreement and immediately reopen negotiations with the true and legitimate representatives of the teaching category: Andes-SN, Sinasefe and their respective CNGs. And to debate a new agreement based on and in dialogue with the counter-proposals presented by them.

*Alberto Handfas is a professor at the Department of Economics at Unifesp and president of Adunifesp.


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