Introduction by the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency
Below we publish a report from the comrades of El Mundo Socialista (fraternal Brazilian group of the RCIT) about an ongoing national strike of about half a million bank workers. The RCIT is in full solidarity with the strike and their demands for higher wages and better working conditions.
The EMS report however points out the danger that the reformist bureaucracy of the bank workers trade union, CONTRAF-CUT, is prepared to sell out the strike. This is why it is decisive that the vanguard amongst the bank workers starts to organize the rank and file in strike committees and utilizes the daily strike assemblies at the work places to advance the strike. They should propose that the daily assemblies of the bank workers during the strike do not only discuss about the issues of the strike but also take decisions and elect delegates. Such delegates should meet for national conferences and form a national coordination committee which leads the strike. This would be the way to challenge the control over the strike by the corrupt trade union bureaucracy.
Such strike committees can also be an important instrument to organize solidarity from other sectors of the working class and the poor. This is particularly important and indeed possible given the recent spontaneous mass demonstrations against austerity and social injustice as well as two national day actions of all important trade union federations.
Such a perspective has to be part of a strategy for working class power, i.e. it has to be integrated into a rounded revolutionary action program. Based on such a program, revolutionaries have to build an authentic Bolshevik organization. The RCIT will assist the comrades of El Mundo Socialista in this most important task for the coming period.
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An indefinite nation-wide strike of Brazilian bank workers began on September 19. The website of CUT reports that the strike has closed at least 6,145 branches and administrative centers of public and private banks in almost all of the national territory, including the country's capital. This means that the strike effects more branches compared to the strike last year (about 1/5). The bank workers demand an wage increase of 11.93%, a higher minimum wage, larger PLR (in Brazil this is the abbreviation for profit sharing), more jobs and an end of the so-called “rotation of jobs” (which means that in 2012 about 11,000 bank were de facto dismissed under this pretext), an end of outsourcing, better working condition, etc.
The National Confederation of Workers in the Financial Area (CONTRAF which is part of the largest trade union federation CUT) represents 490.000 bank workers which are about 95 % of the country's bank staff.
The strong support for the strike, including private banks, shows the indignation of the rank and file workers with the refusal of the bankers to meet their demands. The bank capitalists offered a wage increase of only 6.1%. At the same time "senior executives receive up to 10 million Real per year," as Carlos Cordeiro, president of CONTRAF-CUT and coordinator of the National Command of the Bank Workers stated.
According to reports in the media in recent months, the six largest banks had a net income of 29.6 billion Brazilian Real in the first half of 2013, which is considered one of the greatest profits in the international financial system. The Bank of Brazil for example got a profit of more than 10 billion, the Caixa Econômica (a federal public bank) earned 3.1 billion in the same period, 10.3 % more than last year. The private banks Itaú and Bradesco also obtained significant profits.
Despite these huge profits, the bank capitalists are still closing jobs and worsening working conditions. This appalling situation at the work place has caused an epidemic of illnesses amongst the rank and file workers. Moreover, it has increased the number of robberies, kidnappings and killings. Groups of bandits have kidnapped managers and their families so that they are obligated to open their safes. But the bosses refuse to discuss the workers’ demands.
The bureaucracy of CONTRAF-CUT – which is collaborating closely with the federal coalition government led by the PT – has already offered to downgrade the bank workers’ demands. They offer less wage increases which is however absurd given the fact that wage losses for workers in the private banks exceed 20% in the last years and even 80% for workers in the public banks! Thus the CONTRAF-CUT bureaucracy helps the federal government of Dilma Rousseff 's PT to keep the wages down.
A strong strike is the opportunity for the rank and file bank workers to REJECT the downgraded demand of only 11.93%. They must demand the full replacement of all lost wages. To achieve this, they have to confront not only the bosses of private and public banks but also their own reformist union leaders which are strongly linked to the federal government led by the PT.
(Read the original report in Portuguese language on the website of El Mundo Socialista here)