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Brazilian health workers go on strike

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7038.1059 (Published 27 April 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1059

Health workers at several federal hospitals in Brazil voted to go on strike last week. The strike is one of many affecting federal institutions, including the civil service, universities the Inland Revenue, ports, and airports, and involves an estimated 600000 workers. State and municipal hospitals, which form the majority in the public health service, continue to work as normal.

At the Federal University of Sao Paulo and Hospital Sao Paulo, workers, including doctors, professors, and nurses, began industrial action on 18 April. The university hospital, which has over 4000 employees, acts as a centre for both tertiary referrals and the treatment of accidents and emergencies. The hospital's strike committee plans to close all outpatient clinics and provide only emergency services, including haemodialysis, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

The strike takes place against a background of massive economic, political, and administrative reforms that have taken place since President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was elected in 1994. By law federal employees should have their salaries readjusted annually, but in January this year the government refused to do this, claiming insufficient funds and arguing that financing a pay rise would threaten the fragile economic stability.

Dr Christina Gonzalez, president of the Association of Doctors and Residents at the Hospital Sao Paulo, said that residents, who earn about 1000 real (£666; $990) a month for a 60 hour week, have not had their salaries readjusted for 15 months. She disputed the government's official inflation figure of 23%, saying that an independent economic body has calculated inflation for 1995 as 46%. “We are not fighting for a pay increase,” she said. “In real terms our salaries have fallen—we just want a readjustment in line with inflation.”—JOHN DUNN, doctor, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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