Brazil: General strike hits back against pension reform

Sao Paulo, March 15.

Brazilians took to the streets in a nationwide protest on March 15 against President Michel Temer's pension reform plan. "This is the first unified mobilisation this year and opens the calendar of an intense agenda that we will have in 2017 to denounce the setbacks that penalise workers, such as reforms to the retirement system and labour legislation," said the organisers in a statement.

"While the government justifies the reforms due to the public deficit, it grants tax exemptions to companies, is not involved in the effective fight against tax evasion and forgives the debts of hundreds of companies that owe three times the value of the deficit of the retirement system," they added.

Workers' unions, the Rural Landless Worker Movement (MST), as well as the Popular Brazil Front and the Fearless People Front organised the march, with support from other trade unions.

Temer's controversial pension reform plan — introduced to Congress last December — would reduce benefits, raise social security contributions by civil servants and set a minimum age of retirement at 65 years in a country the average retirement age is 54.

It also eliminates special pensions for the education and agriculture sectors, and removes retirement benefits based on the minimum wage, which, according to MST leader Joao Pedro Stedile almost tripled during the Workers Party governments of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Workers are also demanding Temer's resignation, since he was appointed after the parliamentary coup against Dilma, and new general elections.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]