The Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores de Educación (CNTE), Education International affiliate in Brazil, has called a major nationwide strike in education, protesting the policies of the Bolsonaro administration. The trade union centre in Brazil - Central Única de los trabajadores de Brasil (CUT) – and other organisations have announced they are joining the action and will mark 18 March as a day of General Strike for Education and in Defence of Public Services.
Education has been one of the sectors most affected by the neoliberal policies of the Jair Bolsonaro government. The nationwide strike in education was called after the Bolsonaro administration announced further measures that would decrease public investment in education, despite already insufficient levels. The proposed restructuring of the Basic Education Fund (FUNDEB) will undermine the financing of transport and school meals, textbooks, training for education professionals, construction and renovation of schools, among other programmes.
PROIFES Federação, the Education International affiliate representing higher education workers in Brazil, expressed its support for the strike called by CNTE. Education unionists were soon joined by workers in other sectors, after Bolsonaro made a series of statements against democracy and announced new legislation that would undermine the rights of workers, such as legalising precarious work or taxing unemployed people. In addition, the government’s plans to reform the public sector will brutally undo many of the victories and rights of public sector workers.
The CNTE Executive Board stated that “successive cuts in the budgets of federal universities and institutes, academic research, health and social assistance compromise the quality of life of the population, deny a promising future to new generations and place the country in a situation of generalised insecurity in several areas, including combatting epidemics and pandemics like the one we are witnessing at the moment”.
Considering the COVID19 outbreak and for public health concerns, public events scheduled for the 18 March have been suspended. The strike will go ahead in schools and other workplaces and protesters have been encouraged to voice their concerns online.
During the Council of Global Unions meeting held in London last week, global union leaders representing over 200 million workers, including Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards, sent a message of solidarity and support to colleagues in Brazil.