THE UGLY red and white posters that screamed: “We are on Strike!” in Portuguese, have finally been taken down from the glass entrances to most banks in Brazil, after unions representing bank workers agreed to a 6 percent salary increase on Friday.
That sounds like a good increase but with inflation this year at 4.5 percent that means bankers will only be getting a “real” increase of 1.5 percent, according to my banker friend Alisson.
All the private banks as well as the state-owned Banco do Brasil and Banco Regional de Brasilia have accepted the negotiated settlement, with the government-owned Caixa Economica Federal employees holding out not on the salary issue but on additional benefits they are asking for.
As the Correio Braziliense newspaper pointed this morning, bankers have walked out of their jobs every year now since 2004. Would it not just be easier to have a guaranteed increase each year that covers inflation and a bit more? With the record profits that Brazilian banks have been making, despite the world economic crisis, it seems certain that they can afford it!
Banks were closed to the public for three weeks or 15 working days. In this electronic age, that meant that all banking had to be done through ATM machines or via the Internet. But can you imagine what havoc it would have wreaked if ATMs and the Internet did not exist? One can only imagine the hardships it would cause. I wanted to send money to a friend abroad via Western Union and could not because of the strike. Since the strike is now over, I was able to this morning.
IN THE sometimes strange world of Brazilian tax laws, businesses can opt to pay their anticipated income tax to the government in advance and then be reimbursed a year later if it turns out they overpaid.
The bad news is that the Brazilian government announced this week that it was delaying the income tax refunds this year because its income tax collection this year has fallen dramatically due to the economic crisis, and because it does not want to cut back on its huge spending on social welfare and economic stimulus.
That means that anyone who overpaid in income tax and was expecting it back, with interest of course, before Christmas is out of luck. Some analysts are expecting the government to be sued over this, but that could take years in the courts, so most Brazilians will just swallow hard and wait for their refunds, later rather than sooner.
With upcoming elections next year for president, Congress and local officials, some cynics are saying this is a move to help President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s handpicked successor Dilma Rousseff in her campaign for the presidency.
IN HONDURAS, deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is still holed up in the Brazilian Embassy, and despite negotiating attempts by the Costa Rican president and a high-level delegation from the Organization of the American States, it doesn’t seem like he will be leaving it soon.
The interim president, Roberto Micheletti, is managing to hold on to power until the promised elections in November because he is fully backed by the Congress and the judiciary. Zelaya and his Brazilian backers have been demanding that Micheletti reinstate him as president until the elections. Micheletti has resolutely refused, saying that if Zelaya leaves the Brazilian embassy he will be tried for treason for not upholding the constitution. The OAS diplomats, worried about the cramped quarters of the embassy with so many Zelaya supporters there along with the deposed leader, asked the Honduran government if Zelaya could remain in his own residence under house arrest (with diplomatic immunity), but they refused.
With November just around the corner, we will have to wait to see who wins the election, and if that person will be accepted by all sides to be the new president of Honduras.