The strike movement in federal education

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By REGINALDO S. FERNANDES*

É It is important that the Lula government demonstrates to society a project that places Brazilian universities at the center of the national reconstruction process

Amid tensions between President Lula's government and the civil service, employees of the federal education network, which had its highest attendance on April 15, 2024, launched a general strike. The strike involves administrative employees and teachers from most of the Union's educational institutions – federal schools, institutes and universities. The demands include an adjustment for the year 2024 and recovery of salary losses. While the strikes progress, the Lula government denied any possibility of an increase this year, stating that “the budget is closed”.

Other employees in the federal education network are already on strike. Teachers joined the general strike, joining administrative employees, who have been on strike since March 11, led by Fasubra. Teachers and technicians from federal schools and institutes, represented by Sinasefe, have declared a strike since April 03, 2024, affecting federal schools and institutes.

In addition to the readjustment, education employees demand restructuring of career plans, more investment in institutions and holding competitions to hire more workers.

After six years without salary adjustments and without strikes (the last one occurred in 2015), the federal government granted a 9% increase in 2023 to all federal employees and readjusted the food allowance from 458 to 658 reais. Furthermore, it resumed negotiation tables with federal officials, increasing the number of scholarships and readjusting their values, positively impacting teachers' working conditions. There was also an expansion in the number and values ​​of scholarships for students, with a 200% adjustment for Scientific Initiation scholarships, for example.

The salary situation of federal public servants presents several aspects to be considered. Firstly, it is important to highlight that previous negotiations resulted in partial corrections of salary losses. However, there are disparities in the agreements, with some categories having adjustments for only two years and others for four years, which demands a solution in the current negotiations. Between 2019 and 2022, there was a salary freeze, which worsened the accumulated losses. Although an emergency adjustment of 9% was granted at the beginning of 2023, it is necessary to consider that inflation still has an impact in the following years, as indicated by the Focus Report of June 23, 2023.

Given this scenario, a salary adjustment is requested based on the IPCA variation, considering the period from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2023, which totals 114,08%. This adjustment will guarantee the replacement of inflationary losses and the appreciation of public servants.

In addition to replacement, although necessary, the strike movement in federal civil service is characterized as spaces of resistance to neoliberal market forces, which exert pressure on the Lula government, historically linked to the popular and democratic sectors. Strikes are not just about wage compensation, but also about protecting labor rights achieved and the defense of public services against the logic of privatization and dismantling.

They represent a voice against austerity policies that aim to make the working and living conditions of public servants even more precarious, and at the same time, strengthen the struggle against the government's submission to market demands. In this sense, strikes in federal civil service are an expression of popular resistance, which seeks to keep alive the project of a State focused on social well-being and guaranteeing rights for all.

It is no coincidence that the correlation of forces in national politics favors extreme right-wing opportunists, who are anti-science and against public universities. No strike by federal employees in the four years of Jair Bolsonaro's government and a current strike (even with the government's willingness to negotiate) signal what to public opinion? What effects will this have on political and electoral disputes, especially this year? Will it strengthen or weaken the field that fights for a public, free and quality higher education system in Brazil?

In this area, the Lula government finds itself caught in the crossfire with a conservative legislature and the capitalist market, which corners it against the wall with each drop in popularity. It's not just about the president's statements about the civil service strike or the conditions imposed in the negotiations. The most serious possible political error seems to be the lack of understanding that political-electoral success goes beyond the neoliberal agenda.

The strategy of previous governments, such as Lula's, cannot be repeated, especially now, with a base of voters more radicalized on the right. It is necessary to build social welfare policies, including education, to expand support and guarantee defense against attacks. The second Dilma government could serve as an example for the president and his ministers.

At the time of writing this article, the National Student Union (UNE) endorses support for the strike movement in federal education. A joint note was issued expressing solidarity and support for administrative staff and teachers at federal educational institutions, who went on strike in search of salary adjustments and restructuring of career plans. The note highlights that the right to strike is legitimate and guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, it is important that the Lula government, elected by the democratic camp, advances in negotiations towards a proposal that guarantees the appreciation of these workers.

It is important that the Lula government demonstrates to society a project that places Brazilian universities at the center of the national reconstruction process. This requires adequate funding so that institutions can fulfill their role in educating citizens. Taking a stand against the centrality of the zero deficit policy and the fiscal framework is crucial, as is recognizing that the need for public investment in education, health, science, technology and other social areas should not depend exclusively on increasing the Union's revenue.

It is necessary to consider Brazil's historical budget gap. To this end, it is essential that measures are adopted to guarantee a distribution more equitable use of resources, prioritizing investment in strategic areas for the country's development and the well-being of the population.

*Reginaldo S. Fernandes He has a master's degree in Culture and Territory from the Federal University of Northern Tocantins (UFNT).


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