Reasons for the end of the strike at Federal Universities

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By TADEU ALENCAR ARRAIS*

The Federal Government's new proposal announced on May 15 deserves debate on whether or not to continue the strike

“The survivor is always increasing the merits of the deceased to magnify himself, his peer in the eyes of the world, in the esteem of others and in his own esteem”
(Jean-Paul Sartre. the family idiot, P. 1106).

It is in daily cultivation that the strike is reproduced, just like a set of questions that frequent university corridors. We know that it is easier to write about questions than to answer them. Some of these responses, from the outset, will be influenced by the position contrary to the movement and already exposed in the text “Reflections on the strike at federal universities”, published on the website the earth is round.

 What has changed, then, over this short period of time so that, once again, the invitation to debate is renewed? The answer is simple: the Federal Government's new proposal announced this Wednesday, May 15, 2024. I will insist on one point. Since the proposal is better than the first, I see no reason to continue the movement and I will therefore defend the end of the teaching strike. This stance, it is worth remembering, does not require any type of genuine courage. Our environment is fertile for discussions and even error, considering the history of science and, especially, the history of economic and political doctrines, has a historical effectiveness.

The first issue to be addressed results from the relationship between the Lula government's readjustment policy (2023-2026) and the historical losses of professors at federal universities. This picture of losses, traditionally, is measured using the IPCA (Broad National Consumer Price Index). The limit for temporal retreat is the sky, which can refer to the glorious times, if they existed, of a public University that did not face the challenges of universalization and, therefore, from the government's perspective, the expansion of funding.

The dynamics are relatively simple. Whatever is above the IPCA, in short, will imply a real increase in relation to the pre-determined periods at the negotiation tables that can evolve, in some segments, even into so-called collective bargaining agreements. The Minimum Wage, for example, has been readjusted based on the IPCA, plus the result of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The adjustment this year reached 6,97%, representing real gains, according to DIEESE (Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies), of 3% (DIEESE, 2024). The nominal value of the Minimum Wage increased from R$1.320,00 to R$1.412,00. This is the amount received, every month, by 17,2 million INSS beneficiaries (INSS, 2024), especially retirees and pensioners.

The average income of the formal labor market, which employed 48,7 million Brazilians (RAIS-MTE, 2023), in December 2022, depending on the sector and function, also does not exceed 1 Minimum Wage, such is the classic example of domestic workers. This is a summary portrait of the job market. This is an equally summary portrait of the job market in which, if they are lucky, a significant portion of our students are inserted. If there is no luck, everyone will be left with informality and unemployment. The university, after all, is not an abstraction.

 

Federal Government proposals2023202420252026General Financial Increase in BenefitsReadjust us stepsGrouping of Initial Classes
First proposal9,00%0,00%4,5% (May)4,5% (May)711,53— No
Second Proposal9,00%0,00%9% (January)3,5% (May)711,534,50%No
Third Proposal9,00%0,00%9% (January)3,5% (May)711,535%Yes
Figure 1. Summary of the Federal Government’s proposals, between 2023 and 2026
Source: Source: GOV.BR (2023, 2024, 2024b)
*The value of the increase in aid (food, daycare and health) was considered based on the sum of the largest transfers, since the age and salary of the teacher influence the variation in the benefits granted.

Looking only at the interstice of the Lula government (2023-2024) and assuming, with hope, that the President will finish his term, we have, from the point of view of the evolution of the proposals, the situation described in Figure 1. Let us remember that the IPCA could register, between 2023 and 2026, up to 15 points and the linear adjustment, in the first proposal, corresponded to the accumulated 18% for May 2026. There would, in this case, be a real linear gain, without considering the adjustment in class intervals and the increase in aid, depending on inflationary calculations and projections, between 3% and 4,5% above inflation.

The second proposal differs in the linear adjustment that went from 18% to 21,5%, which means, depending on inflationary projections, a real increase between 6,5% and 8% above inflation. In this proposal, it is also necessary to calculate the adjustment from 4% to 4,5% in class intervals, in addition to the financial increase in aid. It should be noted that the conversion of the increase resulting from the readjustment of aid, in the initial classes, could represent an increase of up to 5%. The third proposal, despite reproducing the linear adjustment of the first proposal, seems more reasonable, for two reasons: the first refers to the 0,5% increase in class intervals and the second to what we can roughly call grouping of initial classes.

Figure 1, it can be argued, is a simplification, since we are not dealing with a linear career with homogeneous salaries within classes. This is yet another difference in relation to, for example, the type of Minimum Wage adjustment policy. We have a more well-known teaching career, forgive the joking tone, like alphabet soup. It has been common, in the heated debates, even comparisons with the level of Basic Education Teaching.

A figure (Figure 2) published, with motivational purposes, at the beginning of the strike, was titled “Lag in federal salaries in relation to teachers’ salary”. The figure compared the annual variation in the minimum wage for basic education teachers with the annual variation in readjustments for federal teachers, indicating an accumulated figure of 79,1% for the former and 9% for the latter. In a tone of almost mockery, an observation appears prominently: “The national level of Basic Education needed improvement, but the gap in employees at Federal Universities is very large”. Aside from the parallelism insinuated in the argument, there is no need to explain how many states and municipalities pay teachers, graduates of our schools, with the minimum wage for basic teaching.

Figure 2. Figure widely circulated on social media
Note: The figure was accompanied, at the top, by the name of a trade union. As we do not know the origin, we decided to exclude the identification.

But it is clear that there are different levels of the teaching career, translated into different remunerations, between a professor with an exclusive dedication who will join tomorrow, as an adjunct, and an old full professor, like the one you write, who already records in his functional history more past than what a future in teaching. The debate about career, class breaks, acquaintances steps, is not peripheral. Let's see how the Federal Government's proposals, in Figure 3, are materialized in teachers' salaries.

CareersHomeDeputy 1Associate 1Sensitive Personal Data
Nominal valueReadjustment cumuladoNominal valueReadjustment cumuladoNominal valueReadjustment cumuladoNominal valueReadjustment cumulado
Current*10.481,64 —12.862,12 —18.085,17 — 22.377,70 —
First proposal11.446,219,20%14.045,769,20%19.749,469,20%24.437,019,20%
Second Proposal11.824,8612,81%14.510,4112,82%20.698,5014,45%25.982,4916,11%
Third Proposal13.753,94  31,22%  14.510,41  13,3%  20.698,50  14,3%  26.982,49  17,6%
Figure 3. Projection of the nominal salary (gross in R$), of selected classes, under exclusive dedication, based on the interpretation of the Federal Government's proposals, for the year 2026
Source: GOV.BR (2023, 2024, 2024b)
*The 9% linear adjustment granted in 2023 has already been incorporated.

The Deputy 1 class is the group with the lowest pay and the most precarious social security protection. The words parity and integrality are not part of the vocabulary of this group. The adjustment, considering the nominal value of the initial class (entry), was 9,20% in the first proposal, 12,81% in the second proposal and 31,2% in the third proposal. The biggest adjustment, in the second proposal, was for the starting class, with 16,11% accumulated until 2026. The evolution of the negotiations, with possible impasses, headed, correctly, towards the initial appreciation of the career.

The variation described in Figure 3 does not consider, it is always necessary to remember, the linear 9% granted in 2023. So the accumulated adjustments, according to the proposal released on 15/05/2024, are between 43,1%, in the grouped class initially, being the largest adjustment, and the adjustment for assistant 1, equivalent to 23%, the smallest among the classes. These percentages already consider the projection of steps.

Figure 4. Graphic representation of the nominal salary (gross in R$), of selected classes, under exclusive dedication, based on the interpretation of the Federal Government's proposals
Source: GOV.BR (2023, 2024, 2024b)

The impasses at the negotiation tables between the Federal Government and trade unions, represented, especially, by Andes (National Union of Teachers of Higher Education Institutions) and PROIFES, are historic. These are positive impasses that comprise different conceptions of career and, therefore, of university. I suspect, however, that a significant portion of the 121.155 teachers working in federal educational institutions (INEP, 2022) are, unfortunately, far from this debate.

Pragmatism, resulting from a reading of the political and economic situation, is not always negative. The proposal to equate benefits between the three powers (Legislative, Judiciary and Executive), published in the ANDES-SN Counter Proposal, on 13/05/2024, deserves applause. However, subjected to scrutiny of budgetary reality and the geometry of legislative support, the proposal suffers from expectations of success. I also imagine that the refusal to increase 0,5% of steps,due to a linear recomposition, requires further clarification. The hypothesis that linear redistribution, if the Federal Government accepts, at some point, the conversion, will harm the initial classes, is quite plausible.

This entire situation described would still deserve an incursion into the Federal Government's budget, accompanied by a criticism, even if it is just for the purpose of remembering, of the fiscal adjustment adopted by the Lula Government, under the command of Minister Fernando Haddad. Even though this neoliberal matrix deserves, especially in our daily practices, to be challenged, there is no way to neglect the evolution in negotiations. I suspect that part of this openness to dialogue is related to the presence of UFRJ professor and Minister of Management and Innovation in Public Services, Esther Dweck.

Another possible incursion would be to relate the economic and budgetary clash to the Rio Grande do Sul scenario. GDP, inflation and public spending projections will be changed. We will not advance, out of modesty, this line of reasoning. But there is something in the air that goes beyond the negotiating table and that needs to be said or visualized, as indicated in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Brazil, number of enrollments in undergraduate courses, by teaching modality, in public and private institutions, 2022
Source: INEP (2023)

This concern is not gratuitous, since part of the speeches in favor of the strike movement focus their energy on the structural issues of the public university. It's as if it were a sin to admit that the impasse is, indeed, about salary. We went through difficult times that required effort from everyone to maintain the teaching routine with some sanity. One of those historical moments, increasingly frequent from now on, that marks the meeting between a health crisis and different political insurgencies, worthy of novels like The plague, by Albert Camus.

Meeting students in person, at this time of regularization of the post-pandemic academic calendar, was encouraging and, at the same time, worrying. Each of us, as public servants, must evaluate the reasons why the rooms were not full of students thirsty for knowledge typical of speeches, forgive the romanticism, more Enlightenment.

Of the 9.443.575 enrollments in 2022, in Brazilian higher education, as shown in Figure 3, 7.367.080 were private and 2.076.517 were public. Just the knowledge that the total number of non-face-to-face enrollments in the private network totaled 4.148.677 is already a cause for great anguish. Here are two questions that result more from everyday restlessness than from the construction of hypotheses elaborated with erudition:

Are, in fact, infrastructure and underfunding problems enough to keep young people away from Public Universities? Could it be, in fact, that the removal of young people from the Public University does not compromise our career and, also, the recognition of its importance for Brazilian society?

We cannot neglect that the financial outlay to attend non-face-to-face degrees, of questionable quality, is often less than the cost of transportation, collective or individual, for working students who still insist, despite opposing forces, on occupying the benches of public universities. Given our Achilles heel, which is evasion, the zero percent readjustment in 2024 seems irrelevant.

* Tadeu Alencar Arrais He is a professor at the Department of Geography at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG).

References


Analyze-UFG. Graduation. Teachers. Available in: https://analisa.ufg.br/p/32232-servidores

Brazilian central bank. Inflation targets. Available in: https://www.bcb.gov.br/controleinflacao/metainflacao

GOV.BR. First Proposal from the Federal Government. December 22, 2023. Available at: https://www.gov.br/gestao/pt-br/assuntos/noticias/2023/dezembro/governo-oficializa-proposta-de-reajuste-salarial-para-os-servidores-publicos-federais

GOV.BR. Second Federal Government Proposal. April 19, 2024. Available at: https://www.gov.br/gestao/pt-br/assuntos/noticias/2024/abril/governo-propoe-ampliacao-de-reajuste-e-reestruturacao-das-carreiras-das-instituicoes-federais-de-ensino

GOV.BR. Third Federal Government Proposal. May 15, 2024.

INEP. Higher Education Census. Main results – 2022. Available at: https://www.gov.br/inep/pt-br/areas-de-atuacao/pesquisas-estatisticas-e-indicadores/censo-da-educacao-superior/resultados

INSS. Social Security Data. 2022. Available at: https://www.gov.br/previdencia/pt-br/assuntos/previdencia-social/dados-estatisticos-previdencia-social-e-inss

RAIS-MTE. Data on formal employment. Available in: https://bi.mte.gov.br/bgcaged/caged_isper/index.php

SARTRE, Jean-Paul. the family idiot. Gustave Flaubert from 1821 to 1857. V. 1. Porto Alegre, LP&M, 2013.


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