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February 24, 2024

Brazil: On the Transport Strike in São Paulo

On November 28, São Paulo went on strike against the privatizations happening under the Tarcísio government. Among the strikers’ demands are the reinstatement of the eight fired subway workers.

By: Deyvis Barros

Republican Party Governor Tarcísio Freitas has continued with his plan to sell off São Paulo so that businessmen can profit from the privatization of public services. He has committed himself to this even if it causes disasters like the blackouts that have been happening on the watch of the private energy company Enel, which left more than two million people without electricity in recent weeks.

The governor’s zeal for privatization has been so great that he wants to complete the sale of Sabesp (the state sanitation company) by the end of this year. At the same time, he has commissioned million-dollar studies to privatize the subway and the CPTM (train company).

Just last week, Tarcísio announced that he would build 33 state schools under private management. If a curriculum increasingly geared to the needs of the market were not enough, the governor also wants to hand the management of education directly to businessmen.

And he will do this by using the mechanism of public-private partnerships (PPP), which were first created by Lula’s government in 2004, and federal funds from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES).

Popular Plebiscite: The Working People of São Paulo Oppose Privatizations

The plebiscite, promoted by trade unions with the support of various movements, parties, and trade union centers, such as the PSTU and the CSP-Conlutas, collected about 897,000 votes. Of these, 99.9% voted against the privatizations.

The results show that the population has already had experience with private services and is against the sale of public companies.

It could not be otherwise. Since the privatization of the CPTM lines 8 and 9, there have been blackouts, breakdowns, and derailments. The Enel blackout was the most serious case of what have become routine disturbances suffered by the population with the private management of energy, especially in peripheral neighborhoods.

November 28: A New Unified Strike Against Privatizations

The October 3 strike by subway, train, and sanitation workers paralyzed São Paulo and had the support of 84% of the population, according to a survey conducted by the portal UOL.

The strength of the first strike and the popular plebiscite against privatization, as well as the acceleration of Tarcísio’s privatization project, has led even more unions and movements, including teachers, to build a second strike for November 28.

This time, the strike call has included the demand for the reinstatement of the eight metro workers who were fired for fighting against the government’s attacks.

Centers, Movements and Parties Must Unite and Advance the Struggle

A plan for struggle that combines strikes with the plebiscite and popular mobilizations against privatizations can defeat Tarcísio’s privatization plan. But to achieve this, it is necessary to unify this struggle. The main trade union centers must mobilize their rank and file and call for a strike against the privatizations and for the recovery of the privatized companies.

It is also essential that the leaderships of the parties that are formally against privatization join the struggle without hesitation. It is unacceptable, for example, that public figures like Guilherme Boulos (PSOL), worried about the electoral consequences of his candidacy for mayor of São Paulo, do not use all their influence to build the strike.

Program: Against all privatizations! Make privatized companies public again!

Private services mean higher prices and lower quality because they only serve the bosses’ profits.

However, our struggle cannot be limited to preventing the privatizations that are underway. Sabesp, for example, is no longer a 100% state-owned company. In fact, the government of São Paulo owns only 50.3% of the shares. The rest is traded on the São Paulo and New York stock exchanges.

It is the bourgeoisie, national an foreign, that lives on speculation and profits from the deterioration of services and the lack of water in peripheral areas. For this reason, today it is necessary to include the struggle for 100% state ownership of public enterprises and services.

It is also necessary to rebuild energy distribution. The demand of Mayor Ricardo Nunes (MDB) to cancel the contract with Enel is totally inadequate and demagogic. Nunes is also responsible for the blackout. But he is not the only one.

In the fight against privatization, it is necessary to confront Lula’s government

The National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), which is controlled by the federal government, is in charge of supervising and even canceling the contracts of companies that manage this service. Lula must revoke Enel’s contract and nationalize it immediately, and the same should happen with Eletrobrás as well, which was privatized under Bolsonaro’s government.

The struggle against privatization must continue to confront the Lula government’s PPP law and the federal government’s use of BNDES resources to finance privatizations, as is now happening with the concession of schools in São Paulo and the construction of a private prison in Rio Grande do Sul.

No less important is our fight to put the control of companies and public services into the hands of workers and those who use these services. The current form of administration, in which decisions are made by businessmen, speculators, or sponsored politicians, only serves their interests. An administration formed by those who use services and work is the only way to satisfy the interests of those who need these services.

Interview: Tarcísio fired eight metro workers to intimidate the movement. We demand their reinstatement now!

After the October 3 strike, the Tarcísio government decided to attack the sectors that have been at the forefront of the struggle against privatization by firing eight metro workers and suspending another. Among the dismissed are four union leaders, including the current vice-president, Narciso Soares, and a former president, Altino Prazeres, both militants of the PSTU.

This is not the first time this has happened. During the 2014 strike, then-governor Geraldo Alckmin (now in the PSB and vice-president of the Lula government) fired 42 subway workers. After much struggle, these workers were reinstated.

Today, the struggle against Tarcísio’s privatizations is linked to the struggle for the reinstatement of those who resist them. Opinião interviewed the vice-president of the Metroviarios union and one of the dismissed workers, Narciso Soares.

First of all, solidarity to you as you face the persecution and dismissal by the Tarcísio government. You and the other seven dismissed subway workers and the union are at the forefront of the struggle against privatization. What relationship do you see between the dismissals and this struggle?

Thank you for your solidarity. We have received a lot of support from social movements and the population. Both in the struggle against privatizations and for reinstatement.

The plebiscite against the privatizations showed that the population is radically against them. We are aware of the breakdowns and derailments on lines 8 and 9 of the CPTM (trains). Now Enel is leaving a lot of people without electricity.

The strike was another step in showing that privatization is a disgrace and that the people support our movement, which is why Tarcísio has been persecuting those of us who have been at the forefront of this struggle and preparing its next steps. The goal is to try to frighten and slow down the progress of the struggle against privatization. But not only will we not be intimidated; we will strengthen the strike.

Tarcísio has already sent a bill to the Legislative Assembly to privatize Sabesp. He wants to privatize it this year, in the midst of the chaos caused by blackouts. Many workers fear that the privatization of water and sanitation will have the same effect as the privatization of energy. Do you think this is a risk?

Of course there is. The privatization of Sabesp, if it goes through, will cause great harm to the population. Where water and sanitation have already been privatized, as in Rio de Janeiro, the service has deteriorated and there are times when the water that comes out of the taps is almost the same quality as sewage. The rates have also increased a lot.

In Bahia, sanitation was privatized by the PT state government, and today the rate for low-income people costs R$ 70.00. In São Paulo, where Sabesp is still state-owned, it is R$ 20.00. This claim that privatization will bring improvements for the people has not been proven.

That is why we will continue to fight against all privatizations. Both those of Tarcísio, in São Paulo, as well as those carried out by Lula at the national level.

The strike planned for November 28 against the privatizations and now also for the reinstatement of the dismissed metro workers involves not only metro workers, CPTM, and Sabesp workers, but also other sectors such as teachers. How is the construction of this strike happening among the rank and file and with the leaderships?

November 28 will be an important day of struggle, even bigger than October 3. Subway, railway, and sanitation workers will strike and other sectors like teachers will join. Some factories are announcing work stoppages.

We think that the leaderships of the main trade union centers should give more weight to this struggle, as this would be key to putting even more pressure on the Tarcísio government. Also, it would help nationalize the struggle against privatizations and fiscal adjustments happening in other states. The location of most of these centers within the Lula government prevents them from carrying out a coherent struggle against privatizations.

For our part, we will continue to mobilize the workers and try to build this united process so that all unions strike in November and so that we can build this unity across more unions and demand that the centers mobilize their bases, both in São Paulo and at the national level, against privatizations and adjustments.

Article first published in www.opiniaosocialista.com.br, 11/22/2023.

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