Brazil’s postal strike will officially end tonight at midnight, after the country’s top labour court ordered staff back to work.
Between a fifth and a third of the 110,000 work force at the Post and Telegraph Company (ECT) have refused to work since September 14, after months of discussions failed to secure agreement over a new long-term collective bargaining agreement about about two-thirds of ECT staff.
Yesterday afternoon saw a final court hearing at the Superior Labour Court, with a new labour deal decided by a panel of judges led by official arbitrator Maurico Godinho Delgado, who set the terms based on a 6.87% pay increase back-dated to August 2011, along with a real-terms increase of R$80 ($45 USD) per month to take effect from October 1, 2011.
Staff were also awarded a one-off bonus of R$575 ($324 USD), payable in December, along with benefits like extra food stamps that will be worth an extra R$140 ($79 USD).
The biggest issue of yesterday’s hearing, as at last week’s failed conciliation meetings, was whether staff would be penalised for going on strike.
The final decision was that staff would lose seven working days’ worth of pay, but will be able to work the remaining 21 days of the strike by working extra days on weekends before May 2012.
Although Brazilian law would have allowed the judges to simply dock the workers’ pay for every day they were on strike, Delgado said yesterday that the strike had not been called improperly, and that protests by union members had been peaceful.
“We have not had reports of major incidents throughout the union protests in more than five thousand units of the company,” he said.
ECT issued a statement last night confirming that the postal strike will end tonight. It said striking workers will start their compensatory extra work days from next weekend.
The company said it expected services to get back to normal within seven days.
Unions said following the court ruling that the new contract was “not the best proposal”, but that they had nevertheless been “victorious” in the outcome of their strike action.
Rivaldo Jose da Silva, the leader of the national federation of postal workers (Fentect), said there was no discussion that the unions would comply with the court ruling to return to work. Fentect faces a R$50,000 ($28,000 USD) fine if workers do not return to work.