Starting today, post office branches throughout Brazil will be closed. Gathered in meetings in several states the workers at ECT (Brazilian Postal and Telegraph Company) decided to go on strike for undetermined time until their demands for bigger salaries and better work conditions are met.Â
José Gonçalves Jacó, the director of ECT's Workers National Federation believes that 100,000 of the 110,000 postal workers will join the strikers.Â In the southern state of Paraná, for example, about 80% of the ECT employees have already stopped their activities, according to the president of Paraná's Post Office Workers Union, Nilson Rodrigues dos Santos.
In the negotiations round held Wednesday, September 12, informed Jacó, the ECT offered to hike wages by 3.74%, while the workers are asking for a 47% raise plus what they call "real wage hike" of 200 reais (about US$ 100). In its counterproposal the postal service offered 50 reais (about US$ 25), which will not be paid before January of next year.
"This is very little," explained Jacó. A mailman has initial salary of R$ 524 (about US$ 250) while a director gets about 24,000 reais (about US$ 12,000). We want a process of salary recovery."
Workers are demanding more than better wages. They also want maternity leave for six months and hazardous work supplement. "Today, mailmen endure a bigger incidence of skin cancer as well as dog attacks, assaults and other accidents," justified the president of the Paraná's union.
Maybe this is not the best time for the announcement, but the Brazilian Ministry of Communications made known that it is studying the opening of the capital of the national Postal Services as an alternative for modernizing and expanding the company. The information was given by the minister of Communications, Hélio Costa.
"The opening of capital is under discussion. Just as the Petrobras (state-owned oil company) did, and just as others state-owned companies did. It is a hypothesis," said the minister, calling attention to the fact that the measure does not entail privatization, in which case the Union would control the company.
The minister submitted yesterday to the minister of Finance, Guido Mantega, the proposal for expansion of the Postal Service, of which, according to him, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was already aware.
Costa claimed that after the president's trip to Europe, a meeting is scheduled to discuss the proposals and their impact upon the Postal Service.
According to the minister, the establishment of a large logistics company, linked to the state-owned one, would be another alternative for catering to the "huge demand" in the order delivery market.
"We are forecasting an increase of over 100% for next year. Either the Postal Services will prepare itself, or it will end up losing this market," he stated.
Another proposal would be the restructuring of the Postal Bank, which currently functions in partnership with privately owned bank Bradesco.
According to Hélio Costa, the bank has 5,200 branches, around 5,000 accounts are opened per day, and 10 billion Brazilian reais (US$ 5.1 billion) are deposited.
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