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Brazil strikers claim success
By Tom Gibb, BBC News
July 9, 2003
Civil servants lined the streets
Brazil - Striking public sector workers
in Brazil have claimed success after the first day of what they have
promised will be a campaign of strikes to try to derail sweeping pension
Estimates suggest between 40% and 50%
of the country's 900,000 federal workers joined the strike.
But the country's president, former
union boss Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva has vowed to press ahead with the
reforms upon which he has staked the success of his government.
The public sector unions that organised
the strike are threatening to close the government down unless the pension
reforms are withdrawn from congress.
But it is not at all clear that they
will have the force to do so. On the first day of the strike in the
capital, Brasilia, ministries carried on working as normal as most workers
The greatest disruption appears to have
been in ports, airports and at frontier posts as customs officials stopped
all but essential goods from entering and leaving the country.
Lula, as the new president is known,
was helped by the fact that the largest union confederation has not joined
the strike, instead opting to try to negotiate changes in the reforms.
These at present will limit the size of
public sector pensions, change the age of retirement and make pensions
Economists say they are essential to
stop Brazil from going bankrupt.
Lula himself brushed off the strike
saying he would only be worried if congress had joined in as well.
He appears to be gambling that public sector workers will gradually go back to work rather than follow union calls to deepen the strikes in coming weeks.