Brazil: Appeal for solidarity! Conlutas, new trade union organisation, under attack

Condemn the brutal attack on the office of Conlutas and the subcontracted workers of Revap

Build unity in struggle, against criminalisation of the social movements and for higher wages

We condemn the brutal attack on the office of Conlutas (an organisation that unites left trade unions, trade union oppositions and social movements) in São José dos Campos (São Paulo state) and the workers of Reval.Hundreds of workers from Reval were taking part at a meeting on Friday August 1, to establish an Association of Construction Workers.

An attack of this scale against a workers meeting in an urban area is unheard of in Brazil since the military rule that ended in the 1980s. More than 30 armed thugs, some with masks, invaded the meeting shouting and shooting. They destroyed three cars of the Metal Workers Union of São José dos Campos (at whose site the Conlutas office is located), destroyed furniture, shot one trade unionist in the hand while he lay on the floor, and tried to shoot the Conlutas spokes-person in the area. This is a warning for the whole trade union movement and all social movements.

This attack comes against a background of increased attacks and criminalisation of the social movements in Brazil. The attacks come from the bosses, their representatives in the governments and the judicial system. Recently we saw the state prosecutors in the state of Rio Grande do Sul trying to outlaw the MST (Landless Rural Workers Union). In the northern state of Pará, a court fined the leaders of MST and ordered them to pay 5,2 million reales (3,2 million dollars) for organising a blockade of the railway system of the mining giant Vale in April. The teachers union in São Paulo state, Apeoesp, has been prohibited from holding marches, and faces fines of several millions. One of Conlutas spokespersons, Dirceu Travesso, has been fired from his job at the state owned bank of São Paulo, Nossa Caixa.

In the area of São José dos Campos, combative unions have faced sackings and are banned from leafleting and holding factory gate meetings. The Metal Workers Union of São José dos Campos has been fined by 5,4 million reales (3,4 million dollars) for holding factory gate meeting outside the aeroplane constructor, Embraer This company had announced in the last few days that they will sack hundreds of workers, despite the fact that the company has almost doubled its profits.

In the case of Revap, workers, they have had to take on the struggle against the bosses without the help of their trade union that is filliated to CUT (the PT-led federation).

These workers are subcontracted on amplifying the facilities of Revap, one of the oil giant Petrobras refineries. They were out on strike for 31 days between 16th of May and 16th of June. A strike of this length is not common in the private sector in Brazil. The workers refused to be represented by the lame trade union leadership, and elected their own Negotiations Committee. The strike was successful, but after the strike they faced a series of attacks. Petrobras called the Military Police to break up a rally of Revap workers that was called to protest against the sacking of workers, including members of the negotiating committee. Following this Ecovap (the consortium of subcontractors) sacked several hundred workers.

In order to organse their struggle better, because of the utterly tame and passive role of the official union, the workers called a meeting to launch an association the subcontracted workers. It was this rally that was brutally attacked by armed thugs.

This attack has all the characteristics of the worst kind of “trade union banditry”, that unfortunately is common in Brazil. ‘Yellow trade union’ bureaucrats are prepare to confront combative oppositions with psychical attacks to protect their positions. Although an attack of this scale has been unheard of in the recent period. The aim of the attack was clearly to scare the workers from organising themselves. The only thing stolen in the attack was the documents of the meeting, including the list of participants.

We give our support and solidarity to Conlutas and the subcontracted workers of Revap and support their demand that the role of the Construction Workers Union’s, Petrobras’ and the subcontractor Ecovap’s in this attack must be investigated.

The necessity to unite and strengthen the trade unions struggle is urgent. In the last years we saw the profits of the bosses rise sharply, while the workers only got crumbs. Now the inflation is undermining the salaries and the international economic crisis is getting closer by the day. This attack and criminalisation of the social movements shows that the bosses and their representatives are preparing themselves for harder battles. Unfortunately, the official trade unions are not yet prepared to respond to this. It is necessary to unite the struggles, including the coordination of the struggles for higher wages, and to reverse the present fragmentation of the struggle which exists. One fundamental part of this is the defence of every trade union and social movement that is under attack. An injury to one, is an injury to all!

Miguel Leme

(member of the directors board (on licence) of Apeoesp (state teachers union of São Paulo) and member of Socialismo Revolucionário (CWI in Brazil))

Eliana Lacerda

(president of the National Federation of Print Workers and member of Socialist Liberty Collective)

Marcela Marques da Silva Damasceno

(member of the directors board of the Print Workers Unions of the state of Minas Gerais and member of Socialist Liberty Collective)

On August, 20, there will be a national demonstration in São José dos Campos against this attack. We call all trade unions and other movements to send messages of support to:

Special financial appeal to all readers of

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August 2008