Brazilian unions: We’re facing a double pandemic

10 June 2020 13:31

“A double pandemic.”

This was how Brazilian trade unions described their current situation as they confront the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and President Jair Bolsonaro’s troubled governance.  

In a “How are you?” webinar hosted by BWI, 27 trade union leaders, representing different BWI-affiliated unions in Brazil, met online to share their experiences and difficulties in confronting the COVID-19 crisis. Saúl Méndez, President of the BWI Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean and Secretary General of SUNTRACS-Panama, led the online conversations. 

The trade unionists zeroed in on the failure of Bolsonaro’s authoritarian governance to contain COVID-19 and his administration’s attempt to conceal the true magnitude of the crisis to the public. 

“We are facing a double pandemic. On one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic and its ill effects on the health, safety and employment of workers; and on the other, the neoliberal policies promoted by Bolsonaro,” said Claudio da Silva Gomes, President of CONTICOM-CUT.

As a response, trade unionists highlighted the need for innovative activism, unity, creation of new protocols on occupational health and safety (OSH), social dialogue and collective bargaining to shield workers from threats of dismissals and reduction in wages and benefits. 

Participants also shared their unions’ various initiatives to protect their members from the health crisis. Some of these efforts are their respective COVID-19 awareness and prevention campaigns, safe workers’ transportation, handwashing centers, negotiations with local governments and trade union cyber-activism. 

Aside from trade unionists, Waldeli Melleiro from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES-Brazil) attended the event as a special guest. 

Meanwhile, Méndez took the opportunity to warmly welcome Adalberto Galvão of SINTEPAV-BA, who fully recovered after being hospitalized a month ago due to COVID-19.