Wave of strikes and agreements in Brazilian car industry

Workers at major car industry plants in Brazil went on strike during September in support of their demands for improved pay.

Submitted by Ed on October 5, 2008

On September 1, workers at the Volkswagen-Audi factory in the city of Curitiba began a one-week strike. Workers at the Volvo and Renault/Nissan plants in the same town also went on strike on the same day.

During that week, 24-hour strikes occurred at Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Mercedes Benz and Scania in cities in the interior of Sao Paulo state.

The first workers to reach an agreement were those at Volvo, on 4 September and Renault/Nissan, on 5 September. The unions accepted a 2.66 per cent real increase in pay plus 7.15 per cent in line with the increase in the National Consumer Price Index (INPC) over the last twelve months, making a total pay rise of 10 per cent. They also negotiated a one-off payment of R$ 1,500 (about US$863).

Meanwhile, the dispute continued at VW-Audi in Curitiba where workers demanded a 12 per cent pay rise. On September 9, workers ended the strike after accepting an 11 per cent pay rise starting in November (3.6 per cent real increase plus 7.15 per cent in-line with inflation). Workers also negotiated a one-off payment of R$ 2,000 (about US$ 1,150).

The strikes forced the companies to improve their offers, which were initially very low. The increase in real wages in addition to the inflation-linked pay rise, together with the one-off payments, represent a major victory for metalworkers. "This is why we say it is worth putting up a fight. Now we are going to get ready for the next round of pay negotiations, for auto parts in October and metalworking and machinery in December," said Sergio Butka, President of the Curitiba Metalworkers' Union and of Força Sindical in Paraná state.

The ABC - centre of the auto industry
The CUT-SP Federation of Metalworkers' Unions reached a good agreement for all auto workers in the state on September 6. The ABC Metalworkers' Union, representing workers in the country's main auto industry centre, had threatened to call a strike, but this was not required, with workers accepting the employers' proposal two days before the date set for the strike. The Taubaté union also accepted the proposal after bringing Volkswagen and Ford factories to a halt.

The São Paulo federation agreement consisted of an 11.01 per cent pay rise (3.6 per cent real increase plus 7.15 per cent in line with inflation) for workers on wages of up to R$ 7,500.

Workers with above R$ 7.500 received a 7.15 per cent pay rise in line with inflation plus a fixed amount of R$ 289.30. The minimum wage for the sector was increased from R$ 1,110 to R$ 1,250, an increase of 12.6 per cent.

Similarly, ABC and Taubaté auto workers received a one-off bonus of R$ 1,450 (US$ 845) on September 22. Including this payment, the pay rise was five per cent, a historic victory for the union.

The President of the ABC Metalworkers' Union, affiliated to CNN/CUT, Sergio Nobre, said that after 18 hours of meetings, an agreement was reached "worth a significant amount". He added that the growth of the auto industry in recent years created the conditions for workers to seek these pay rises.