When Rio de Janeiro police went on strike last week over wages and working conditions,joining their brethren in Bahia, there was real concern that the strikes might threaten Carnaval in two of the cities most important to the festival. That worry came to an end in the last week; the Bahian police ended their strike a week ago after being offered a 6.25% raise in wages, and on Monday, Rio’s police voted to suspend their strike in advance of Carnaval and with the government providing a nominal raise in wages.
However, that does not mean an end to all police and firefighter activity in Rio, where both groups agreed to hold separate meetings once Carnaval ends in order to determine what paths to take in the short- and long-term.
Boz is right that the end of the strikes is a massive victory for the governments in the short-term; while the workers did get raises, they were nowhere near high enough to actually address the very-real problem of poor pay for police forces and firefighters. The fact that a majority of the police forces also is a moral victory for the state government of Rio de Janeiro for the same reason it is troubling for the movement itself; a failure to get broader adherence to the movement inevitably cripples the movement’s ability to negotiate from a position of strength and gives the government the upper hand by allowing it to disregard the substance of the police’s demands, something that this strike’s short-lived nature only reinforces.
But this victory may be Pyrrhic for the state and city governments. The nominal raises in no way address the issues of poor pay for officers, and so long as those issues are not addressed, it is increasingly likely that those in the police force will look to supplement their incomes in drastic ways, most notably by turning to militias and entering in the drug trade (and drug wars) in urban centers. Just because the strike has ended does not mean the problems within the police force, or the threat of another strike, have disappeared forever, and it will be worth watching to see what (if any) moves the police and/or firefighters take after Carnaval, when the eyes of the world are not as focused on Brazil and the national festivities are over and no longer at risk of increased crime.