University professors and staff in Brazil have begun a national strike for salary increases to match inflation and for free, public and high quality education.
The strike covering half of Brazil’s public universities will probably spread to all federal institutions of higher education in the next week. It comes at a crucial moment.
President Lula’s government is in tatters over an escalating corruption scandal. Lula’s Workers’ Party has continued to push neo-liberal measures in Brazil since it came to power in 2002 and has struck dirty deals with corrupt right wing parties.
The party leadership faces a challenge from the left in internal party elections on 18 September.
The university workers’ strike is an important step in the struggle against the government’s neo-liberal policies.
In the last 20 years, even minor salary increases have only been granted after strikes.
In addition to emergency salary readjustments, both the staff and university professors’ unions are calling for the hiring of more staff and for more resources for education.
Most importantly, they are linking up their demands within the education sector to larger demands for an end to the scandalous debt repayment of the Lula government to international bankers.
This strike signals the growing willingness of the Brazilian working class to not only challenge the Workers’ Party rhetorically, but take concrete action in an effort to turn the neo-liberal tide.