Brazil's unions reject national deal to end postal strike
Brazil’s Post and Telegraph Company (ECT) and national federation of postal workers (FENTECT) reached an agreement yesterday that could have ended the partial strike now in its 22nd day. But, Brazilian media reported today that 18 of the country’s 35 regional unions are refusing to support the deal.
If it is ultimately rejected, strike action will continue and the case will go back to the courts for a special arbitration ruling, which is expected to take place on Monday.
The strike, which started on September 14, started out involving about a third of the 110,000 ECT work force, although it is now believed around 20% of the work force remains on strike around the country.
A hearing within Brazil’s top employment tribunal, the Superior Labour Court, yesterday, saw representatives from postal management and the national union leadership accepting a conciliation proposal based on a 6.87% pay rise reaching back retroactively to August 1, 2011, and a increase in salary of R$80 per month from October 1, 2011, onwards.
Workers were also offered extra benefits in the deal, like food stamps, healthcare benefits and paid childcare.
The thorny issue of whether strike days should be docked from workers’ vacation allowances was dealt with through a plan in which six days’ worth of pay will be docked at a rate of half a day’s pay per month from January 2012. The remaining 15 days will be made up by striking workers putting in overtime on weekends before May 2012.
The deal was hammered out by the court’s vice president, judge Maria Cristina Irigoyen Peduzzi, but remained subject to ratification by the individual postal unions of each region.
Speaking to the press after yesterday’s hearing, the judge said she was pleased with the agreement, “which ends a problem that affects the whole society”, adding that she was confident that postal workers would back the deal.
She said if the regional unions did not approve the deal it would go to an arbitrator to force a decision.
In a statement, ECT said last night that the conciliation agreement represented a real increase of 9.9% taking into account inflation. The postal service said: “Under the agreement, the responsibility of those negotiating for the workers is to direct the unions to approve the proposal from the meeting.”
Fentext issued a statement to its affiliate unions today stating that there had been a “tense” hearing lasting four and a half hours, in which they were warned that if the matter went to arbitration, it could be impossible to secure a real increase in wages.
Given the risk, the Fentect leadership said it had to direct the unions to approve the proposal put forward by the Superior Labour Court.
But later today, Brazilian media reported confirmation from Fentect leader Jose da Silva Rivaldo that a majority of the unions were against the deal, despite the warning from Fentect that under Brazilian law, an arbitrator can take an “unfavourable” view in relation to the payment issue and taking of strike days.