Tags: Brazil | economy | labor | unrest

Brazil Workers Protest Nationwide for Better Conditions

Thursday, 11 Jul 2013 11:53 AM

Brazilian workers on Thursday blocked roads and staged protest rallies across the country in a day of industrial action called by major unions to press demands for better work conditions.

The "National Day of Struggles" was called by the country's five leading labor federations during last month's mass street protests to demand better public services and an end to endemic corruption.

The unions are demanding better wages, shorter working hours, job security, improved public transport and bigger investments in public health and education.

In the huge Sao Paulo metropolitan area, home to 20 million people, a peaceful march by demonstrators blocked traffic on several roads as they converged for a major rally on the central Avenida Paulista.

In nearby Sao Jose dos Campos, the local Metalworkers Union said 15,000 of its workers were taking part in the mobilization.

"The protests that shook the country in the past few weeks proved that only the struggle brings victory. It is time to demand that the federal government change its economic policy and take measures in support of workers," Antonio Ferreira de Barros, president of the Metalworkers Union, said in a statement.

In other major cities such as Salvador de Bahia, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte, public transport was seriously disrupted.

In the port of Santos, Latin America's biggest, dockworkers also joined the national protest.

Wednesday, Santos port activity was disrupted for several hours when stevedores went on strike, complaining that Embraport, the largest Brazilian private multi-modal port terminal, is not hiring through the state-run labor management agency OGMO, which places union members in jobs.

The workers fear that bypassing OGMO will make it possible for private companies to recruit non-unionized workers that will accept lower wages.

The dockworkers also fear that legislation passed by Congress in May will mean loss of jobs and benefits as private port operators are no longer required to hire through OGMO.

In Rio, mass transit was operating normally at the request of unions who called on the public to join a protest march in the city center later in the day.

Banks and shops were closed for fear of looting and ransacking.

The unions meanwhile appear divided on whether to support President Dilma Rousseff who last month vowed to hear "the voices of the street" and pledged to boost investments in public transport, health and education.

"We hope that the president will respond to our demands. Already she sat down with us three times and nothing came of it. If she fails to meet our demands, we will continue to mobilize," said Paulo Pereira da Silva, president of the Forca Sindical union.

© AFP 2015

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