By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Professors and administrative officials at at least eighteen federal universities in twelve states in Brazil have began a nationwide strike for more government investments in education, better working conditions and a 27 percent pay increase. Last week, the government announced that it would be making significant cuts in government spending, including education, where it would reduce investments by more than R$9.4 billion. The last time federal university employees received a pay raise was in 2012.
According to ANDES (National University Teachers Association) President, Paulo Rizzo, the strike was the last resource found by the teachers to pressure the federal government into expanding public investments in education and force it address the precarious working conditions of those who are in the public higher education system.
Among the federal universities on strike are those in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Mato Grosso.
“The budget cuts by MEC [Ministry of Education] made by the federal government in 2015 have led to enormous losses in the development of academic activities at the federal universities, so much so that several sectors are no longer viable,” stated a press release by ANDES justifying the need for action.
The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, stated that it had agreed to meet with representatives from the teachers unions but that from the start these entities had stated that they had already set a date for the strike.
“That is not dialogue. Dialogue presupposes the willingness of both parties to talk, only resorting to a strike as a last resort,” said officials. The Ministry says it continues to seek a dialogue with the leaders of these unions to come to a quick resolution on the matter.