NEWS IN ENGLISH – Unions oppose firings at Jirau

20/04/2011 10:09

Roberta Lopes and Yara Aquino Reporters Agência Brasil

Brasília – The Camargo Corrêa construction firm, the principal contractor at the Jirau hydroelectric power plant and dam project on the Madeira River in the state of Rondônia, reached an agreement with local labor unions and the CUT (a national labor organization). The agreement ended what amounted to an uprising by around 30,000 workers at Jirau and a neighboring dam project also in Rondônia, Santo Antonio (where the principal contractor is the construction firm Odebrecht). Workers rebelled against working and living conditions, destroying living quarters, equipment and vehicles; work at the two dam projects ground to a halt for two whole weeks. The agreement obtained the workers an immediate 5% salary increase and the regular payment of overtime.

However, just a few days after the agreement was signed, Camargo Corrêa fired 4,000 workers at Jirau. In an explanatory note, the company said it had initially contracted too many workers in an attempt to finish the job by March 2012, when the original completion date had been January 2013. As it would no longer be possible to move the completion date ahead, the firings were necessary.

An announcement of the firings was made at meeting of representatives of the government, workers and contractors by ministers Gilberto Carvalho (“Secretaria-Geral da Presidência da República”) and Carlos Lupi, Labor, on April 14. The ministers said firings were expected at Jirau. The meeting was discussing conditions at the Jirau and Santo Antonio construction sites and the violent worker uprisings there.

Immediately after the announcement of the firings, a vice president of another labor union, Força Sindical, Miguel Torres, said his union was opposed to the firings. “There is some confusion about this,” declared Torres. “I was present at all the meetings on the situation at Jirau and Santo Antonio, and at no time did any union leaders agree to firings. We agreed that the contractor at Jirau had to remove its security personnel because the situation at the construction site remains tense, but certainly not a firing en masse of workers,” declared Torres.

According to Torres, the meeting did decide to eliminate middleman contractors, known as “cats” (“gatos”), a kind of coyote, who often lures workers with false promises. “The idea is to eliminate the gato and hire only through the federal employment agency (“Sine”), a decision that is expected to reduce labor problems at the construction sites.”

Torres said that it was also agreed that worker representatives would have direct, regular contact with representatives of the Camargo Corrêa and Odebrecht construction companies.

Allen Bennett – translator/editor The News in English – content modified

Link - Sine deverá cuidar da contratação de trabalhadores para obras do PAC

Link - Sindicatos discordam de demissões em Jirau, diz vice-presidente da Força