Strike at UEMG – the malaise in state higher education

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By MULTIPLE AUTHORS*

The strike at UEMG has its own state contours and is more than a fight against the precariousness of education in the hands of Romeu Zema

1.

Adding to the recent texts posted on the website the earth is round, which address strikes in state and federal higher education, these brief notes deal with the morbid symptoms that led to the start of the strike, on May 2, 2024, at the State University of Minas Gerais (UEMG).

The State University of Minas Gerais occupies space in more than twenty cities in the state of Minas Gerais. Apart from its headquarters in the capital – which is distributed across several Schools of Design, Music and other Faculties – UEMG today has an important role in public higher education in the interior of the state, in several of its macro-regions.

There are 1.699 teachers, the majority hired through a simplified selection process (that is, on a temporary basis, due to the scarcity of public competitions), working with 597 administrative technicians (all hired, as there was never a specific competition for the category), to serve more than 21.000 students. There are even undergraduate courses without any public servants on their teaching staff. As far as public servants are concerned, they continue to have no guaranteed right to exclusive dedication – a regime of sole dedication to the University, without other employment relationships.

Except temporarily for those in management positions (such as department head and course coordination), which appears to be a substitute for what is known in other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the country as a bonus role. The workload carried out by the teaching staff, in turn, is equivalent to exclusive dedication, since practically everyone has jobs in teaching, research, extension, in addition to those who hold management positions.

It is, therefore, a University built by several hands – all of them overloaded and which, since May 02nd, after years of a strike agreement (made in 2018) not being fulfilled and months of trying to open a negotiation table with the state government, decided to react. Hands of teachers with a salary made up of (i) basic salaries below the basic education salary + 2) bonuses that are not incorporated into the basic salary. “Aids” that are cut off, for example, when a teacher takes leave due to illness, even when he presents a certificate and carries out his entire bureaucratic process in the manner instructed to do so by the Electronic Information System – the SEI; or when teachers need to go on maternity leave and lose this part of their salary (as they are “gratifications”, aid that is added to the salary and which, in situations like these, easily come into risk and are lost) while on leave, not to mention the impact on retirement salaries due to a practically non-existent career plan.

Not to mention the current salary gap of 76%, representing the second worst salary in public universities in the country, with the prospect of zero readjustment, even with inflation recorded by the IPCA of 4,62% (curiously, hours after the strike was announced , the governor unveils a 3,62% adjustment proposal, which remains below inflation and also denounces Romeu Zema's political tactics in manipulating public opinion¹).

Furthermore, many professors do not even receive the maximum degree they have at the time of taking office (several doctors do not have their doctorate recognized, for example, in the composition of their income), making it necessary to wait three years during a probationary period. to do it.

2.

A scandalous situation, therefore, in which the vast majority of teachers have a weak employment relationship in their respective units, even being discontinued from work. right to research, and those who, in theory, are regularized, are often forced to settle for an expectation of work outside of their qualifications.

“To give you an idea, the Simplified Selection Processes – PSS in force, are opening notices with salaries lower than the constitutional minimum, where teachers, with postgraduate degrees, are being hired, to work 20 hours a week, with the state government paying a salary shameful basic cost of R$ 974,74. With university technicians the situation is outrageous, with the latest notice 03/2024, announcing a basic salary of R$1.155,64 for a 40-hour work week at the University Rectory, based in the Administrative City.”²

But students' hands also felt the impact of more than 100 million reais in budget cuts, which directly affected research, extension, teaching monitoring and student retention grants (a total of 85% of cuts). Furthermore, the Units lack university restaurants and student housing and, as a result, several students have seen colleagues drop out of their courses. After all, many of the students live in other cities and end up traveling back and forth to UEMG and from UEMG to their cities on a daily basis.

Students who work arrive and start their journey around 17pm and only return to their homes between midnight or 0am. Those who live in the cities of the UEMG Units also do not have a student pass and, therefore, feel the absence of assistance policies. Students who see, together with teachers, the impact on the day-to-day life of the university of, above all, the state of Minas Gerais budget for UEMG today being 1%.

“Several projects are being cancelled. In the Academic Monitoring Teaching Program – PEMA, for example, five hundred (500) scholarships were cut. Students were caught by surprise, with a cut of more than 50% in available student grants. In the first months of the year, notices such as PAPEV/PAPEX – Support Program for Teacher Participation in Events in the Country or Abroad were suspended. And the new notices to support research and extension projects have a reduced number of grants.”³

Thus, the strike at UEMG has its own state contours and is more than a fight against the precariousness of education in the hands of Romeu Zema: it is a symptom, a fire warning, which extends to other states in the country in revealing what is happening when practices are unloaded that, when a governor does not achieve the direct privatization of what he wants, become naturalized as something that is still construction but is already ruin – a suffocation tactic dear to the authoritarian background of neoliberalism in local register.

After all, Romeu Zema's penalties for public servants (also in other spheres, including public security) are a constant practice in the hands of the governor: a few days ago, Romeu Zema himself sent two new bills that “deal with the contribution of civil servants to the State Servants Pension Institute (Ipsemg)”, and, if approved, “the rates paid by users could increase by up to 81,8%”.

The goal? “Modernize and optimize” the institute – constant words in his speech, but invisible to the eye, at the expense of losses, lack of salary recovery and punitiveness among employees. Apparently, in Romeu Zema's phraseology, modernization and precariousness due to suffocation go hand in hand.

3.

At UEMG, this has been reflected, among other issues, in the “brain drain” – teachers who have asked for dismissal, not always because they have passed other competitions, but because they cannot tolerate the unworthy working conditions. Those who stay are sickened by the prospect of the devaluation of their career. “Modernization and optimization” in no way reaches the institutions – just check the facilities of the units, the absence of laboratories, rooms (including classrooms and teachers), in short, far from promoting plural and broad conditions for research. Teachers who produce a lot, with very little at their disposal. They create flowers in a garden under constant threat of poisoning – whose almost voluntary care passes through the hands of teachers, students and technicians.

This strike is legitimized by incorporating bonuses into the basic salary, salary recovery, competitions and justice in the budget for teaching, research, extension and student assistance at UEMG: for these and other issues everyone is clamoring – university autonomy now !

UEMG is a heritage of the people of Minas Gerais, but its contributions to society are a heritage of Brazil.

Article written by professors at the State University of Minas Gerais (UEMG).

Notes


¹ https://sindutemg.org.br/noticias/zema-anuncia-proposta-desrespeitosa/

² https://esquerdaonline.com.br/2024/03/27/zema-sucateia-a-uemg-com-corte-de-100-milhoes -in-2024/

³ Same.

https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2024/04/21/zema-propoe-aumento-que-pode-chegar-a-81-n the-contribution-of-servers-to-ipsemg.


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