Brazil: government offers pay rise to end professors’ strike
Generous pay package offered to federal university lecturers; Brazilians shown to be fond of capitalism; and Petrobras and Rio University inaugurate pioneering fuel research centre.
Government offers pay rise to end professors’ strike
On Friday, the federal government proposed a salary plan for lecturers at Brazil’s 59 federal universities. Lecturers have been on strike for nearly two months at 56 of these institutions, demanding better pay.
The pay plan foresees average increases of 33.73% over the course of three years, including a modest rise of 4% that had been decreed in March this year. The precise percentage increase depends on the lecturer’s position on the university career ladder.However, the number of career levels itself would be reduced from 17 down to 13, meeting another demand by the lecturers’ unions. The maximum salary would amount to more than R$ 17,000 (£ 5,360) pcm. The proposal would cost the government R$ 3.9 bi over the next three years.
Initial reactions seem to suggest that the offer has not been met with enthusiasm. Lecturer’s representatives announced they would meet on 23 July to decide whether or not to continue the strike.
The treasurer of Andes union, Almir Menezes, noted that the proposed salary hike in and by itself sounded “reasonable” if it came into immediate effect. Yet to evaluate the plan, it would be critical to know at which points during the three year period salaries would be adapted by what margin.The Sinasefe union criticised that the government offered the largest increases for those few professors in the highest income brackets, whereas the union demanded bigger hikes for those at the beginning of their academic carreer.
To substantiate their point, Sinasefe compared the entry salary of a lecturer with a doctorate degree in the lowest university income bracket with that of a motorway policeman who had only completed middle school. The figures showed that with around R$ 5,600 (£ 1,770), the policeman earned slightly more than the lecturer.
Brazilians embrace capitalism
A recent survey by U.S.-based Pew Research Center found Brazilians among the most enthusiastic proponents of a free market economy. Pew asked 25,000 people in 21 countries about their attitudes towards capitalism.
In Brazil, 75% of respondents agreed with the statement “people live well in a free market economy, even if some are poor and some are rich”. In Mexico, only 34% of participants approved. Trust in the free market was also low in many Western countries hit by the crisis.
Brazilians are also among the most optimistic people when it comes to judging the feasibility of to improve one’s lot through hard work. The statement “success is possible as long as you work hard” was supported by 69%. Higher approval rates only appeared in the surveys undertaken in Tunisia (73%), the United States (77%), and Pakistan (81%).
According to Pew, economically successful people tend to attribute their achievements to their hard work, while poorer strata of society are normally more sceptical. Unlike in other countries, however, the researchers could not find any statistically significant differences among the attitudes of rich and poor in Brazil.
The recent economic boom and prevailing optimism towards future development might play a role here. From the Brazilian participants, 65% said the economy was in a good state; 72% reported they were better off now than five years ago; and 81% concluded they had reached a higher standard of living than their parents had at the same age. Despite last year’s disappointing growth rate, 84% expected the economy to improve over the next year.
Rio University and Petrobras inaugurate fuel research centre
Petrobras, Brazil’s partially state-owned petrol company, and the Federal University at Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ – Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) have together launched a research centre combining biotechnology and chemical engineering.
The laboratories are situated at the UFRJ campus on the Ilha do Fundão, close to Rio’s international airport. The R$ 66 mio project is funded by Petrobras and Brazil’s National Agency for Petroleum, Gas and Biofuel.
At the inauguration, both Petrobras and UFRJ underlined the importance of bridging the gap between scientific research and the development of commercially viable types of fuel. Unlike other laboratories, the centre aims to spur the development of both renewable fuels and those based on fossil oil. As such, it is the first of its kind in Latin America, according to the two organisations.
Brazil is leading in the production and use of ethanol, a fuel type made from biomass (in Brazil´s case sugarcane). The country also has a long history of oil exploitation. Petrobras is currently investing dozens of billions of reais into the exploration and eventual exploitation of deep water reserves found in 2007.