These universities spend a lot of money, staff, and actions to say that they are fighting the pandemic. But the treatment displayed for the world is not applied to workers – they need to struggle and organize themselves.
Last week (April 26 – May 1), Goias Federal University (UFG) and the companies that handle cleaning and security tried to fire workers. We fought against these companies and now the struggle continues at UFG.
Workers at the security company Guardiã who are in the risk group (for Covid – 19) struggled to be released from work and then were called to be fired. The company manager said that it would be just a “temporary furlough” and threw the responsibility of rehiring on UFG lap.
A worker denounced:
“When we were signing [the dismissal papers], he said that depended on UFG if we would come back or no”
UFG is the major reference in Goias [a Brazilian Midwest state] for monitoring Covid-19, but its “goodwill” to help vulnerable people does not reach the workers from outsourced companies. After sacking at least 101 workers in 2019, UFG and Guardiã tried to throw more workers into unemployment and informality during the pandemic. At the same time, many workers from the outsourced cleaning company Liderança are currently working to ensure their food vouchers or are at home and earning less to try to protect their and their families’ health.
Who assures that these workers will be called back to work? The struggle assured. We were able to return 16 risk group workers to their jobs in the Guardiã. But this victory will mean nothing if the workers are not minimally safe to return to work or if their wage is reduced because they are part of the risk group and need to stay home. Our struggle continues so that invisible workers have their right to live respected in each building and institute in Goiania, Goias, Brazil, and in the world.
This saturday (may 2), after dean Edward Madureira was filmed promising that no workers would be sacked in UFG during the pandemic and after a verbal promise made to the dismissed workers that they could return to work without any problem, we heard that things are not quite like he said. "Nobody tells us if we are staying or not”, said one of the invisible workers that can disappear any minute. “They told us that they can’t fire because of the quarantine, so we are still here. But nobody knows for how long”. The dismissals WERE NOT CANCELED! On top of that, people who were sacked and now are being called back to work without knowing what is going to happen are being obligated to work even if they are in the risk group. This is not the same situation faced by professors, students, or permanent university staff. Not even for other workers from outsourced companies.
We know that workers from Liderança who have Covid-19 symptoms or are in the risk group can stay at home and receive wages – except for food vouchers, which were cut. Employers who are still working – some with symptoms, some risking their lives – only do it because are in need. Why cut the food vouchers then? Do the companies and the union thinks that workers do not need to eat during the quarantine?
UFG is known for being a reference in the fight against the pandemic in the region. Will it tolerate this kind of actions or will it help and strengthen the most vulnerable workers? We remind them that if the heart does not beat faster with emotion, their pockets will suffer. Not only the outsourced companies can have their benefits and incentives cut for sacking workers during the pandemic, but the university itself can suffer negative consequences. Once again, we strengthen the cry for help. We are not alone. And if it does not change quickly, the struggle will only grow!
We, the invisible ones, are here once again to show that we are not going to allow any attack against our colleagues to go unnoticed. We are not exposing ourselves to any danger nor humiliating ourselves. Nobody is going to die unnoticed!
In Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ), the outsourced company PRIME that runs the "Bruno Alves" university cafeteria, sacked the workers while stating that they would rehire them later. The remaining employees are working every day, even on weekends. They said that work is more intense now because they are preparing meals for the Pedro Ernesto Univesity Hospital and to other workers that deemed essential. The hospital needs more resources because of the pandemic. The workers in the cafeteria have to work more because of it and also because of the dismissal of many workers.
Employees from outsourced companies are been forced to work in the Maracanã campus, even if it is empty because of the pandemic. Elevator operators from VERDE GESTÃO continue to work inside empty elevators. Security company MAGNUN also sacked workers, saying that it did not have funds and recommending them to work in public health centers. Cleaning company APPA still does not give proper PPE [personal protective equipment]. Cleaning workers were recently forgotten, and received just 10 meals for 17 employees. In the next days, food was even scarcer. Workers dais that they are receiving only the leftovers. The meals are supposed to be only for the essential workers, but are not they essential?
The dean, Ricardo Lodi (from PT – Partido dos trabalhadores) keeps closing his eyes to the situation of workers from outsourced companies while stating that all companies are receiving funds from the university. In the last few days, students and the Invisíveis collective made a virtual campaign on Facebook to put pressure on the dean by accessing his profile (https://www.facebook.com/ricardolr8).
These universities spend a lot of money, staff, and actions to say that they are fighting the pandemic. Mas the treatment displayed for the world is not applied to workers – they need to struggle and organize themselves. It is not different from the situation of our brothers and sisters in London who are battling Amancio Ortega, one of the richest men in the world and owner of the building where the headquarters of Spotify and The Economist are located. Workers from JPC Cleaning Services Limited said that they are working in the building without enough PPE and had their health intentionally put in danger by the management. There were even employees who disinfected, without any warning, infected areas.
Even worse is the situation of outsourced workers at the Ministry of Justice. The company OCS caused the death of two employees last week, despite many requests and strikes made by the workers to defend themselves from Covid-19. One of the deceased was Emmanuel
Emmanuel had been working in the Ministry of Justice since February 2018. He worked in the agency for 2 years, despite constantly asking to be hired as a permanent employee. As an agency worker, he did not have vacations, sick leaves, and could not be part of strikes or join the union. Even though, Emmanuel bravely decided to join a strike twice, demanding decent wages and paid sick leave. It is reported that Emmanuel did not eat in the hours before his death and he was so weak that he barely knew where he was or how to get home. Unfortunately, he spent his last hours working. Neither the Ministry of Justice nor OCS bothered to help him or to call an ambulance. He left work and died on April 23, 2020, at 10:30 pm.
Our struggle is for Emmanuel. His voice is not going to be forgotten by us. We are struggling for our lives and the lives of our beloved ones.