[Brazil] São Paulo metro workers on strike!

Written by PSTU – Brasil
Saturday, 07 June 2014 16:44
Alckmin refuses to release turnstiles and puts people at risk by forcing the operation of some lines.

The São Paulo governor, Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) [1], reinforced his truculence and threatened with layoffs. The mainstream media have fulfilled their usual role and make an intensive campaign against the metro workers. But to no avail. Continuing the strong strike that began on June 5, the metro workers approved ots continuation at an assembly held on the evening of that Thursday.

During the hearing at the Regional Labor Court (TRT), the metro workers trade union reduced their demand of pay rise from 16.5% to 12.2%, in an effort to ensure an expeditious settlement and put an end to the strike. The company and the government, however, remained adamant and refused to offer something more than the previous proposal of 8.7%, already rejected unanimously by the workers. “This proposal by the Metro company is lower than several workers sectors are achieving such as transport workers, who won 10% increase,” reports Altino Prazeres, president of the Metro Workers Trade Union and a militant of PSTU.

Free turnstiles and government neglect

In contrast, the metro workers once again launched the proposal of returning to work, including payroll deduction, if the government releases the turnstiles, alternatively to strike, while the negotiations are going on. By law, if the metro workers release the turnstiles on their own, they could be dismissed without any severance pay.

In a poll conducted by the website R7 questioning whether or not the government should release the turnstiles, 86% agreed the measure proposed by the union. The government, however,  refused to adopt the proposal, showing how much he cares for the problems the strike is causing to the population.

The indifference of the government goes beyond. To ensure the operation of part of the Metro lines, some white-collar workers are under pressure to operate the trains. These employees, however, do not rely on technical training to perform the task safely.

Due to the strike, trains and railroads have no maintenance, which can cause crashes and accidents. With a total strike in the maintenance and train operation sectors, if any technical failure occurs, the fail can’t be fixed. Alckmin’s government is putting people’s lives at risk to prevent further political erosion.

The strike continues, Alckmin it’s your fault!

The metro workers carry on a legitimate struggle. During the arbitration meeting, however, the judge Rilma Hemérito argued that the subway should operate 100% of trains at peak times and 70% the rest of the day. This type of determination on the part of Justice ends with any possibility of stoppage and is an affront to the constitutional right to strike.

The precariousness of the São Paulo subway is permanent. The subway does not operate at 100% capacity even in normal days. There is no structure or staff for that. The daily overcrowding is the result of the dismantling that the public transport is suffering. Only in the last corruption case [2] the diversion of US$ 111 million has already been discovered, not to mention other fraudulent transactions envolving Alstom’s bids. So, the funds that should be used to improve the Metro operation end up in the pocket of the corrupt.

There is money to be invested in public transport in São Paulo, but end up with overcrowded metro stations and trains is not Alckmin’s priority of government, as it was not in the last 20 years of PSDB’s governments in the state.

The strike remains strong

The workers’ mood is of victory, even without progress in the collective bargaining and the numerous threats by the government, including mass dismissal. The metro workers understand that there is room to fight and to show the public that it’s possible to have a quality subway, if there is a fight against corruption to use that money to invest and expand the railway network.

This poses a challenge: the metro workers are willing to negotiate their demands and intend to work without pay, provided that the turnstiles are free to the public. It’s the uncompromising and truculent stance of the Governor Alckmin and not the struggle of the metro workers that affect the population.

Alckmin negotiates with gas bombs and rubber bullet

After the thursday assembly, the metro workers went to the stations to make picket lines, in order to prevent the white-collar employees to operate the trains, ordered by the São Paulo Metro Company.

This practice, however, is very dangerous. That workers do not have the necessary skilfull to deal with operational problems and no maintenance on the trains and lines are being performed since the beginning of the strike. The combination of these two elements poses a real risk to the passengers’ safety.

To avoid this risky action, the metro workers made picket lines at Bresser-Mooca and Ana Rosa stations, around 3 am. The pickets were peaceful with a quiet dialogue with supervisors. But, around 5:30 am about 10 police officers arrived to talk to the strikers.

Realizing that the metro workers’ action was successful, around 6 am the police officers were reinforced with anti-riot troops. Vitor Ribeiro, a metro worker, said the appearance of the police destabilized the supervisors, who are under pressure to operate the trains. “They said they did not want to operate the trains, because they had no psychological conditions for it,” he says. “While we talked, the anti-riot troops came down the station with a violent attitude, trying to expel us from the station and firing rubber bullet and gas bombs,” denounces the metro employee. “The supervisors did not call the police, this action came from the state government; Alckmin sent the police to crack down on the Ana Rosa station. The order came from above!” says Raimundo Cordeiro, also a metro worker.


[1] The PSDB is a right-wing neoliberal party which rules over São Paulo state, the richest of the country, for 20 years.

[2] This corruption case is known as propinoduto tucano, where propinoduto is the conjunction of two words, meaning “bribe pipe” and tucano is the Brazilian multicolored bird adopted by the PSDB as their symbol.

Related article:

Metro workers: the strike continues

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