- A Brazilian Supreme Court decision suspended the current labor rules. At the same time, the board of the state-owned company wants to cut benefits and reduce costs;
- The Brazilian post office is the first major state-owned company to enter the wage negotiation phase this year.
Since Tuesday early hours, Brazilian postal workers have been on strike, but Correios says that the postal service network is open throughout the country and services, including packages, continue to be posted and delivered in all cities. Correios has said that the services are not affected. The company claims that 83% of the total workforce is working regularly citing data from the morning of the first day of strike.
On the other hand, the company’s workers’ federation, Fentect, said that the adherence of workers across the country reached 70%, as Emerson Marinho, press secretary of Fentect told LABS. At a time when delivery services in Brazil are on the rise, with high demand from e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic, postal workers are on strike in response to working conditions in the pandemic, the breaking of a collective agreement and the federal government’s project to privatize the state-owned company.
Correios stressed that the services will not be affected by the partial stoppage of workers and said it has put in place its Business Continuity Plan to minimize impacts to the population. Measures such as the displacement of administrative employees to assist in the operation, relocation of vehicles and the carrying out of joint efforts are being adopted.
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According to Marinho, as long as there is no “open dialogue door” with the company, Correios’ workers will continue to strike. “The paralyzation is for an indefinite period, that is, we make it clear to the management of the company that any time it calls us for a negotiation dialogue, depending on the way it is done, we can review this position,” he said. As LABS has shown in recent weeks, the Brazilian post office is the first major state-owned company to enter the wage negotiation phase this year.
Why are Brazilian postal employees on strike?
In November last year, the Minister of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) Dias Toffoli decided, preliminarily, to suspend the current normative sentence (which happens when the judiciary has to decide on a collective agreement negotiation) that governs the relationship between the company and its workers. Now, Correios’ workers ask for the reinstatement of the current normative sentence, which would be valid until 2021, and the maintenance of the 79 labor clauses in the document, such as 180-day maternity leave, payment of nightly premium, overtime, death indemnity, daycare assistance, among others.
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Brazilian Court’s final judgment on the matter began on Monday and must end by the 21st – in this pandemic period, the STF’s bylaws say that the trials, made virtually, must take place within 5 business days. Besides, Correios’ workers are opposed to the privatization of the state-owned company, proposed by members of the federal government.
“In some states, we may have acts and demonstrations this Wednesday. The priority is to maintain the rights of workers and guarantee the prevention of contagion from COVID-19”, says Marinho. He adds that privatization is the “background set by the government to dry the company and achieve the goal”.
Amid the national strike, Correios may be privatized soon. The government will forward a bill in the coming weeks to the Brazilian Congress to end the postal monopoly on postal services, according to O Estado de São Paulo. It is worth mentioning that the monopoly Correios has is regarding postal and mailing, but not packages. Correios is on the list of state-owned companies to be privatized.
The Brazilian Ministry of Economy points out as reasons for privatization: corruption, political interference in the management of the company, inefficiency, constant strikes and loss of market for private companies in the delivery of goods sold over the internet. For now, the privatization agenda has made little progress and only 17% of the state-owned companies are free to be sold in Brazil, according to O Globo.
What Correios says in its favor?
Correios, on the other hand, affirm that they do not intend to suppress employee rights. It says that since the beginning of negotiations with union entities, it had a primary objective: to take care of the company’s financial sustainability, in order to regain its investment power and stability, in order to protect itself from the financial crisis caused by the pandemic.
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“No rights were withdrawn, only the benefits that went beyond the workers law and other laws were adequate, in order to align the state company with what is practiced in the market. Workers continue to have access to the daycare allowance for dependents up to 5 years of age. The meal and food tickets also continue to be paid, with the quantities being adequate for the working days of the month, according to the day of each employee: 22 tickets for those who work from Monday to Friday and 26 tickets for employees who work even on Saturdays or Sundays. The employees in the Distribution / Collection, Treatment and Service areas are also kept with their respective additional staff”, it said.
According to Correios, among the measures adopted to protect the workforce during the pandemic, the company redirected employees classified as a risk group to remote work – as well as those who live with people in these conditions – without any loss of salary.
“Regarding the deliberations of the union representatives, Correios stresses that it has a Business Continuity Plan, to continue serving the population in any adverse situation. At a time when people and companies rely more on their services, the state-owned company has been able to respond to the demand, reconciling the safety of its employees with the maintenance of its commercial activities, moving the national economy”, claims the company.
According to the company, the decrease in expenses expected with the contention measures on the agenda is in the order of BRL 600 million annually. “Fentect’s claims, in turn, would cost the Post Office coffers almost BRL 1 billion in the same period – ten times the profit obtained in 2019. This is an impossible proposal to be met”, it says.
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Also according to the state-owned company, “supported by guidance from the Secretariat for Coordination and Governance of State-owned Companies (SEST), as well as by guidelines from the Ministry of Economy, Correios is obliged to ensure the rebalancing of the company’s financial cash. It means rethinking the granting of benefits that go beyond market practice and current legislation. Thus, the state company pursues two major objectives: the sustainability of the company and the maintenance of everyone’s jobs”.