Brazil plans to limit the right of civil servants to strike demanding that in such cases 40% of public services must continue operational, according to sources from the Attorney General's Office and Planalto Palace, seat of the Executive.
The proposal according to the Brazilian press is currently being drafted by the Attorney General's Office and cabinet officials linked to industrial relations and the civil service. No decision has been taken yet as to a possible Congressional debate on the matter or its implementation as a special decree. "The idea is not to ignore the rights of civil servants, but also guarantee that in case of strikes or work stoppages, citizens should not suffer the brunt and inconveniences of the protests", pointed out sources from the administration of President Lula da Silva, a former union leader, who became famous organizing strikes in the automobile industry of Sao Paulo in the early eighties. Apparently according to the proposal under consideration any strike in the government sector must be announced with 48 hours anticipation and guarantee that the affected services will remain 40% running and operational. The head of the Attorney's Office cabinet Jose Antonio Toffoli exemplified with the health services and when a patient is in need of medical attention and Social Security staff is on strike. The proposal under consideration became public following a strike by personnel from the Brazilian Environment Institute, Ibama, who are protesting the administrative decision to divide the office in two different organizations. The federal government appealed to a labor court that at least 50% of personnel remain in office and working while the conflict persists, an initiative which was accepted. The Director General of the Environment Ministry Joao Paulo Ribeior Capobiano argued that the strike at the Ibama office was not linked to labor demands or disputes but was rather a "political" mobilization since it questioned a presidential decision. President Lula da Silva described the situation created in Ibama by striking staff as "unfair and wrong", because no one is going "to loose his job or income, or be fired". Therefore the concern and agitation from my companion workers in Ibama "is hard to understand". In related news, President Lula da Silva also strongly defended the autonomy of the Brazilian Central Bank which he described as positive for the economy and the "less we interfere with interest rates" the better for stability and long term growth. The Central Bank and its interest rates policy have become a controversial issue in Brazil with industry, agriculture and retailers, bitterly complaining about the rates which are amongst the highest in the world. With inflation in the range of 5 to 6% annually, the basic Selic rate in Brazil which is decided every month by the Monetary Policy Committee, Copom, now stands at 12.5%, having gradually dropped from 19.75% in 2005. "I don't want to interfere with the Copom, I think the more autonomy the Central Bank has the better for the economy". However he denied sending a bill to Congress to formalize the Central Bank's independence.