Strike at state universities in Ceará

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By JOSÉ MICAELSON LACERDA MORAIS*

In order not to grant the progressions and promotions due to teachers, the government of the state of Ceará uses the State Attorney General's Office

“A university that does not have a plan for itself, lacking its own utopian idea of ​​how it wants to grow, without the freedom and courage to discuss itself widely, without a higher ideal, a destination that it seeks with clarity, just for this reason is weakened and becomes incapable of living her destiny.”
(Darcy Ribeiro).

In the state of Ceará, under the government of Elmano de Freitas, from the PT, the instrumentalization of the State Attorney General's Office – PGE, which already came from the Camilo Santana government, became overwhelming. All actions that involve any type of financial repercussion and/or expense from any public administration body in the state must have the “endorsement” of PGE or the Secretary of Planning and Management – ​​SEPLAG.

In the case of state universities in Ceará (UECE, URCA and UVA), even the promotions and progressions of the Positions, Careers and Salary Plan – PCCV, which previously went directly to SEPLAG, and then for publication in the official state gazette, only continue after the baptism of the PGE. Through this intermediary, the State Attorney General's Office, in addition to being a body providing legal advice, judicial representation, administrative litigation, credit recovery, legislation and consultancy and legal assistance to state bodies, also became, alongside SEPLAG, a political instrument of the executive control, filtering, containment and retention of public expenses, in relation to the budgets of state agencies.

In order not to grant the progressions and promotions due to teachers, the government of the state of Ceará uses the State Attorney General's Office. Therefore, a right acquired in the Positions, Careers and Salary Plan can no longer be implemented automatically after its processing, as provided for in said plan. There are currently promotion and progression processes for teachers who have been at PGE for two and up to three years. Processes that were previously published in the official state gazette within three months, after being entered into the system by the interested teacher. What we are witnessing is the holding back of processes that have financial repercussions through a legal body in the state of Ceará, equipped by its executive for this purpose. In the case of state HEIs, this represents the collapse of their PCCVs.

Another role assigned by the Ceará state government to PGE is to criminalize strikes. What is happening in the middle of the PT government. It was like that with the DETRAN-CE strike and it is like that with the strike at state universities: Universidade Estadual do Ceará – UECE; State University of Vale do Acaraú – UVA; and Regional University of Cariri – URCA. In the case of DETRAN-CE, on the page of the Court of Justice of Ceará, the following news was published: “The Court of Ceará increased, this Friday (05/04), from R$ 50 thousand to R$ 100 thousand the value of the daily fine for non-compliance with the determination to suspend the strike of the Traffic Area Workers Union (Sindetran). The decision was made by judge Washington Luís Bezerra de Araújo, who also imposed a fine of R$15 on the entity’s directors.”[I] What constitutes a typical case of abuse of authority in law enforcement: by the position of authority using financial intimidation through the imposition of exorbitant fines and penalties on striking workers to control or manipulate managers and leaders.

Likewise, PGE, using the names of the rectors of the three state universities, filed interlocutory decision aiming to declare the illegality of the state strike. On the Ceará Court of Justice's website, the following news was published: “The state judiciary ordered the suspension of the strike of employees at the Fundação Universidade Estadual do Ceará (FUNECE), under penalty of a daily fine in the amount of R$ 10 thousand, with the exception the possibility of applying other measures, if necessary. The decision was made by judge Inácio de Alencar Cortez Neto and was handed down this Wednesday (03/04).”[ii]

In the case of URCA, the daily fine for non-compliance with the suspension of the strike, approved on March 27, 2024, and issued on April 04, 2024, handed down by Judge Washington Luís Bezerra, was R$50.000,00, directed to the union.

However, acting in a unified manner, the state universities of Ceará, even having complied with the requirements of the strike law (prior notification, essential services, collective bargaining, maintenance of minimum services), responded, each in its own time, in the form of law, to the State Judiciary, continuing the strike. The category understands that the strike is legal and legitimate and the strike command unifies the struggle in the three states. However, the State Attorney General's Office had not only contacted the State Judiciary at the time; There was also, in the case of URCA, through letter no.o 078/2024 – PGE/GAB, of April 01, 2024, signed by the Attorney General of the State of Ceará, Rafael Machado Moraes, in addition to informing that he would file “the filing of a legal action seeking the continuity of public services provided by this entity” (including placing the name of URCA as an aggravating subject in the interlocutory decision process sent to the Court of Justice of Ceará); also requested the Rector “exclusion from the payroll of employees absent from the provision of services during the strike movement.” Here we have a clear case of abuse of authority and non-compliance with article 9 of CF/88, which establishes that the right to strike is guaranteed, and it is up to workers to decide on the opportunity to exercise it and on the interests they owe to means of defending him.

Even before the State Attorney General's Office took legal action, it was already sending a letter to URCA to decree a cut in teachers' points. The strike began on April 04th and the PGE letter was issued on April 01st. It seems like a lie, but it is a legal body of the state operated by the executive. Another neoliberal innovation in the form of political/public management created by the governments of Ceará.

Another point related to the State Attorney General's Office is that it further compromised the autonomy of Ceará's state universities. If they no longer had financial autonomy even for their own expenses, due to the permanent austerity controls imposed by SEPLAG, they now also no longer have legal autonomy. The Legal Advisors of the universities themselves, which previously had status of attorney, were now fully represented by PGE, as in the process described above.

In particular, in the case of URCA, founded on July 5, 1986, whose mission is to promote regional development in the center-south of Ceará, this academic semester was already compromised by the lack of teachers, as well as a set of shortages of infrastructure, space, technology and personnel (since its creation there has never been a competition for technical administrative staff, for example, as well as its job and career plan is incredibly lacking, with a large part of URCA's administrative work being carried out by workers outsourced, some of them with thirty years of service).

Some fields of URCA, as is the case of Iguatu-CE, for example, work basically with temporary teachers: a university anomaly and an irregularity on the part of the state government that has been extending since 2004, when the first campus advanced, precisely that of Iguatu-CE (in addition to other campus advances that exist today, as is the case of Campos Sales and Missão Velha, for example). After a lot of struggle on the part of URCA, in 2022, under the Camilo Santana government, a competition for 184 permanent teaching positions was authorized, to compensate to some degree for this contradiction (in an end-of-government measure of an unusually electoral nature). However, due to a series of complications, the final result of this competition was only published in March 2024, and so far there is no set date for hiring successful candidates.

Between February and May this year, between 120 and 150 contracts for substitute and temporary teachers ended, with the academic semester ending in mid-June 2024. URCA's senior administration had even sent a competition notice for substitute and temporary teachers at the end of 2023 to address these needs. However, this notice was “withheld” and was only published at the end of March 2024. The didactic test took place on April 22nd and those approved will only be hired when this semester ends. Where was the notice? In the State Attorney General's Office? What matters is that such a delay made the URCA academic semester unfeasible.

The outbreak of a strike at state universities in Ceará and at least in 51 federal universities and 79 federal institutes, which among others have salary losses as a common point, must presently represent a jolt for the teaching category, warning of the desertification of the foundations university students, according to the enlightening article by Daniel Afonso da Silva, dated 24/03/2024, published on the website the earth is round, entitled “Desertified foundations”. In fact, as the aforementioned author explains in another excellent article, “Strike of professors at Federal Universities”, also published website the earth is round, “the fundamental of the entire situation lies in the need for immediate recognition of the undeniable moral, intellectual, tactical and operational defeat of the entire category in the last ten, fifteen or twenty years.”

And he adds: “when a histrionic Havan-type department store owner begins to ubiquitously vandalize and belittle the legitimacy of what is taught within federal universities and no dean, no university council, no class association, no intellectual or no professor of public expression rises, everything is clearly lost. The king is naked and the ivory tower has collapsed. There is nothing to do and nothing to claim. The general capitulation is complete. This is a relentless 'defeat'. 'It's a default'. ”

We need to go further. We need to understand the side effects of FIES and Prouni for public higher education. The Student Financing Fund (FIES) was created in Brazil in 1999, as part of the Student Financing Program (PROFIES), established by Law No. 10.260, of July 12, 2001. FIES is a federal government program whose The objective is to facilitate access to higher education, offering student financing at low interest rates for students who are unable to pay the full tuition fees for higher education courses at private institutions. The University for All Program (Prouni) was established in Brazil in 2004, through Law No. 11.096, of January 13, 2005. It aims to grant full and partial scholarships in private higher education institutions to low-income students .

From social policy instruments, FIES and Prouni, were transformed by private universities into a very profitable commodity. Over the last twenty years, the decline in enrollments in public universities and their extraordinary growth in private institutions, which now exist on every corner, even competing with beauty salons and pharmacies, is evident in any state in this national space of “infomania that is taking over us.” “The tangible world is confused with the virtual world, generating a depressed, brutalized and brainless society”, as Marilia Pacheco Fiorillo warns us, in an article on the website the earth is round. Francisco Teixeira also makes an enlightening warning about the “Prostration of the university”, in the website the earth is round, when he expresses that: “A world of illiterates is what the information and communication technology society is. In it, people live immersed in the deepest scientific, cultural and political indigence that borders on idiocy.” But the main movement we want to highlight here is the “silent” privatization of public higher education in Brazil, which has already happened and which not all of us are aware of. We need to find ways to fight to regain the place of public higher education. And there is no one better to help us in this endeavor than our late and brilliant Darcy Ribeiro.

University, for what? Isn't that Darcy!? And he responds: “The hard truth is that we, university students, have been and are, we too, complicit in the backwardness of the Brazilian people. We are complicit in the project that made us second-class people within the civilization to which we belong. How can we deny that, as a nation, we had a mediocre performance? Obviously yes, but it is worth asking what the causal factors of this frustration are.”[iii] Well then. As a university, we have a duty to study, understand, explain and develop mechanisms and instruments to overcome the “hidden and concealed causes of our national backwardness”. Because, “The ruling classes say, with all pride, that the delay is not their fault. It would be in the climate, in the mix of races: so much heat, so many mulattoes. All the scientific knowledge that has been saying for so many decades that no natural, climatic or racial factor explains the performance of a people is worthless. Within the purview of our employer and patrician classes, this racist, angry gaze continues to persist, worsening coexistence among Brazilians.”

The university in this context needs to constitute itself, more than ever, in an artifact in the form of “a cultural, scientific and technical consultancy, which is independent and unbribeable, composed of wise people, who are not servants of anyone, who do not depend on a party none. Only the university can provide this autonomous advice” (DARCY RIBEIRO). In addition to training dentists and mathematicians, in any quantity, lawyers or psychologists, doctors, engineers, we need to become public universities as an autonomous and creative cultural center, which cannot be achieved by the private institutions that transformed higher education into cheap merchandise, whose ultimate purpose is profit. Because in the end what matters, according to our master Darcy Ribeiro, is “interrupting the hegemonic and perverted domination of our infertile ruling class”, because, “faced with these issues, Brazilian universities have to mobilize”.

Finally, the public university needs to remember that its role is to rethink and recover the “interrupted construction” of Brazil, made up of unstable economic policies, colonial heritage, a model dependent on imports, and social inequalities; as confirmed by our late and illustrious economist Celso Furtado. Although the interrupted construction is a thesis formulated back in 1992, it still constitutes our dilemma of eternal return, which raises profound questions about our time, destiny, freedom, national autonomy and the meaning of our existence as a nation.

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais is a professor in the Department of Economics at URCA. Author, among other books, of Income, Class Struggles and Revolution (Authors Club).

Notes


[I] Court increases the value of fines for non-compliance with the order to suspend the strike by Detran employees. https://www.tjce.jus.br/noticias/justica-aumenta-valor-de-multa-por-descumprimento-da-determinacao-de-suspensao-da-greve-de-servidores-do-detran/

[ii] UECE STRIKE. https://www.tjce.jus.br/noticias/justica-aumenta-valor-de-multa-por-descumprimento-da-determinacao-de-susprehearsal-of-the-detran-servers-strike/

[iii] Ribeiro, Darcy. University for what? Brasília: Editora Universidade de Brasília, 1986.


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