State Owned Bank

Federal bank celebrates 160 years at risk of privatization and amid employee protests

While celebrating, civil servants protested against the institution's scrapping and presidency's “management by fear”

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | Brasília (DF) |
Caixa Econômica Federal, Brazil's largest state owned bank, celebrates its 160th anniversary this week - Screenshot/Brasil de Fato

At the risk of being privatized by the Jair Bolsonaro government of Jair Bolsonaro, Caixa Econômica Federal (CEF), the national Federal savings bank of Brazil, completed 160 years of existence this past Tuesday, January 12th.

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According to the state owned bank itself, in 2020 alone, more than 120 million citizens used the institution to access social benefits. Today, Caixa is present in 97% of the 5,570 Brazilian municipalities, and was responsible for facilitating the payment of emergency aid given to the Brazilian population during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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To mark the occasion, there were employee protests in many of the country’s cities and towns.

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One of the acts of protest, was the symbolic washing of the store front of Caixa Econômica Federal’s original branch in the capital, Brasília. The demonstration happened in defense of keeping the bank in the hands of the population, and also against the so-called “management by fear” policy - complaints of pressure from the company to adhere to Voluntary Dismissal Programs (POS), restructuring the bank without prior dialogue with employees, working of long shifts, inadequate working conditions for those working from home during the pandemic, as well as other demands considered abusive in the context of a pandemic.

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Union leader Sergio Takemoto, believes that it is necessary to celebrate Caixa’s history and importance, but without neglecting the struggle to keep it a state owned company in good working conditions.

"We are using today to celebrate the existence of a company like Caixa, but we also have to denounce the risks being created by this government that only thinks about privatization", he says.

He reinforces that the bank is responsible for enabling public policies such as the Social Security Fund, housing loans, and the Higher Education Student Financing Fund (Fies). For Takemoto, Caixa employees are mobilizing precisely against the risk of losing something so relevant to Brazil.

"No government official has the right and should not have the audacity to want to sell it," said João Pedro Stedile, from the national leadership of the Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST). "It is as if a neighbor of ours wants to sell our house. Like the Bolsonaro government wants to sell property that belongs to the people, isn't it?", he questioned in a video recorded in defense of the company.

On behalf of the MST, Stedile thanks Caixa employees, "especially during the last few months, for their dedication to contributing to the lives of the Brazilian people, distributing the emergency aid that this insane and genocidal government has now withdrawn".

Ceremony

President Jair Bolsonaro, Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, and the President of Caixa, Pedro Guimarães, were present at a ceremony celebrating its 160th anniversary at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday morning.

Bolsonaro exhalted the importance of Caixa, although he moves to privatize it. “In difficult times like the pandemic, [Caixa] created, in a few days, more than 60 million accounts. We work to bring peace to the men and women of Brazil”, the president commented.

Edited by: Leandro Melito