Brazil: Organize a General Strike against Bolsonaro’s Pension Reform!


Statement of the Corrente Comunista Revolucionária-CCR (Brazilian section of the RCIT), 5 March 2019,




On February 20 of this year President Jair Bolsonaro and his economic staff led by the Chicago boy Paulo Guedes personally handed over to the National Congress the draft amendment to the constitution that intends to change the social security of almost all Brazilians (Armed Forces not included). In a speech in the office of the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Bolsonaro said that "I have made a mistake in the past (against the changes in social security) and we have this unique opportunity to really guarantee for future generations a pension where everyone can be paid."


The importance given to this event shows that the government's bet is to approve this massive destruction of social security as quickly as possible. Therefore, Bolsonaro is looking for an agreement with the Congress as the government faces an internal crisis that puts the president and his sons against the wall after successive corruption scandals involving Bolsonaro’s family and its schemes of false candidates (In Brazilian slang orange candidates) that marked the presidential campaign of the president and his PSL and that culminated in the forced resignation of a minister of state, Gustavo Bebbiano.


This project should begin being discussed by the Commission of Constitution Justice and Citizenship of the Chamber of Deputies after the end of the Carnival festivities. According to the parliamentary ritual, any change in the constitution must be approved in two rounds both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Federal Senate. This does not take less than three months.


The bosses and the government are already making intense propaganda in the media to convince the population of the idea that the intended social security reform attacks supposed privileges of those who earn better wages, reinforcing once again the distorted discourse by blaming mainly public service workers and the supposed privileges of both the public and private sectors.


However, a simple analysis of the proposal, elaborated by Paulo Guedes and his economic team composed of ultra-reactionaries, verifies that in fact this is a deep attack on the social security rights of workers. The sole intention of the government is to shift immense public financial resources to the big capital by implementing the social security capitalization regime, which main model is Chile. Such a Chilean model, which was implemented there by blood and iron, required a bloodthirsty dictatorship that killed more than 40,000 people.


This is an attack on the workers, the women and the poorest people


Among the various points of proposed changes in pensions we will present the main points against workers the rights to retirement:


Minimum retirement age


The minimum retirement age will be 65 for men and 62 for women, which does not even guarantee full retirement because it must be obligatorily combined with 40 years of contribution.


Continuous Benefit System (BPC)


This BPC system guarantees a monthly minimum wage (U$ 266) for the disabled person and for the elderly 65 years old or more who are in a situation of extreme social vulnerability (income per family member less than ¼ of minimum wage). If the change is approved, elders will only be entitled to receive the benefit of a minimum wage at the age of 70, receiving a small palliative of U$ 106 from the age of 60 onwards, that is, less than half of the minimum wage.


Full retirement pension and calculation of the total wages to be retired


To achieve full retirement pension, employees will have to contribute at least 40 years. If they have only 20 years of contribution they would get only 60% of the benefit. This in a reality for more than 40% of the Brazilian workers, that is almost 40 million people, as they are employed in the informal sector.


Currently, the calculation of the benefit value considers the average of 80% of the largest contributions, that is, 20% of them (the smallest) are discarded. With the proposal of change the calculation of the retirement to be received by the workers will consider the average of 100% of the contributions made throughout all the life. Such a measure will greatly reduce the amount of the pension received.


Rural workers' retirement


In relation to the retirement of the rural workers, the current rule is an age of 55 years for women and 60 years for men. Now with this project, the minimum age for the rural worker will be raised to 60 years; in addition, currently the worker only has to prove 15 years of rural activity, even if he/she has never contributed. But with the changes he/she would have the obligation to contribute for 20 years.


Public and private teacher’s retirement


Today, 25 years of contributions are required for women and 30 years for men. With the changes it will be necessary, for both, to have 30 years of contribution exclusively exercising a teaching function, ten years of effective public service in which the retirement is granted. In addition, they will need to have a minimum age of 60 for men and women.


Change in the social security discount rate


Public workers will be one of the most affected sectors. The social security contribution must increase from the 11% of the salary today to 14%, and can reach 22% of the salary. The mayor of the city of São Paulo has already anticipated this issue. Resisting against this project, there has been resistance by more than 80,000 workers of the city hall of São Paulo. Most of them are educators. They have been on strike for one month. The planned pension reform is therefore a veritable wage confiscation against public sector workers.


The military


Just as it happened in Chile, the military of the Armed Forces, the Military Police and Military Firefighters are excluded from the reform of the pension.


Experience of this reform in Chile


In Chile there are six private pension administrators operating in the individual capitalization system. People had to give 10% of their wages to the speculative market, without any contribution from the state or from the employers themselves. To make matters worse, a retiree in Chile receives between 40% and 60% of the minimum wage. This same system has massively increased the misery of many of the elderly. The rate of suicide among the elderly is the highest in Latin America.


An intense propaganda to convince the population


The government's talk to convince the public about pension reform is to emphasize a blatantly lie that the project will reduce inequalities. However, the reform does nothing more than drastically reduce the benefits of the poorest, hinder and restrict access to retirement to such an extent that in the future public pensions will be extinguished. Congressional leaders, financial market economists and the big monopolized media say 24 hours a day that the reform will combat privileges in the public and private sector, a real brainwashing for an uninformed part of the population.


In addition, all of them affirm that "without reform the country will not be able to grow, new jobs won’t be generated and the income of the worker will not increase", besides that "the country will break because it will not be able to finance its expenses".


Our main task is to organize general strike to defeat the pension reform


The social security system was a historic achievement of the working class, achieved by many struggles through mobilizations and strikes since the beginning of the twentieth century. It has become an institutional expression of class solidarity and mutual aid. This achievement is seriously threatened.


This destruction of social security by the Bolsonaro government is undoubtedly one of the greatest attacks on the working class and the oppressed, since it attacks the minimum conditions of existence of the poorest, removes rights and deepens the inequalities between men and women.


In order to make this project unfeasible, a historical struggle of the workers will be necessary. The first step was taken when on February 20 leaders of eight trade union centrals, CUT, CSB, CTB, Força Sindical, Nova Central, Conlutas, Intersindical and CGTB reaffirmed their position against any proposed reform that would weaken, dismantle or reduce the role of public social security.


Above all, the general strike must be organized in order to defeat once and for all not only welfare reform but also other neoliberal economic measures such as labor reform, outsourcing, privatization projects, educational reform, etc.


* Down with the Bolsonaro pension reform and all the other neoliberal reforms!


* Form a united front against pension reform!


* Build the political general strike to overthrow these attacks on the working class!


* Call popular assemblies in unions, workplaces and neighborhoods!