Lecturers rue loss of easy life

July 25, 2003

Brazil's state university lecturers are on strike for the third week running in a dispute with the government over plans to bring in new pension rules.

The leftwing government of president Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva has decided that pension payments are far too generous and the country cannot afford to pay out all its commitments under the current regime.

Mr da Silva was in London last week. He told prime minister Tony Blair that he had the pensions crisis under control and that his legislation would be passed by the end of this year. But in Brazil, it is expected that there will be changes in this legislation and that a compromise will be worked out.

The three-day strike last week comprised about 50 per cent of state lecturers, according to sources. It caused chaos for university students.

The lecturers were on strike for two days the week before last, and are planning a three-day strike this week.

Gustavo Costa, a mature logistics student at the University of Sio Paulo, said: "Lecturers are in a very privileged position. They can retire as early as 40 on full pay. The rest of us have to pay for this and fund our own pensions."

Mr da Silva and his education minister Cristovam Buarque say that the current level of early retirement, which has expanded in recent years, and the outgoings for pension payments will bankrupt the country.

They plan to raise the usual retirement age from 50 to 60 and give lecturers between 33 per cent and 50 per cent of final salaries. Lecturers will be encouraged to take out their own pensions to make up the difference.

A spokesman for the Lecturers' Association for the Federal University of Santa Catarina, said: "Lula talks about the debts of Brazil to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) but what about his debts to the university lecturers and the Brazilian people?"

Lecturers in Brazil, like teachers, can often retire after less than 20 years' work and on pensions of up to R$2,400 (£500) a month, a comfortable income in Brazil.

Brazilian lecturers' demand for a 20 per cent pay rise in April and May was turned down.

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