Workers at Brazilian consulates and embassies around the world, including Boston, launched a partial strike this week, saying they are paid far less than other federal workers in similar jobs back home.
“Today we are fighting for equal pay,” Thiago Rodrigues, a vice consul in Boston, said Friday as he posted signs and handed out leaflets outside the Brazilian consulate on Purchase Street. His colleague, Heber Borba, added, “It is horrible. It’s not fair.”
Massachusetts is home to one of the largest populations of Brazilians in the United States, about 55,000 immigrants, and the consulate overlooking the Greenway is bustling with people seeking passports, visas, and other services. On Friday, signs under the Brazilian flag outside the offices proclaimed: “Greve! On Strike!”
An official at the Brazilian embassy in Washington confirmed that work actions had affected the embassy and dozens of consulates worldwide, including 10 in the United States. But the walkouts varied. In Boston, only a third of the 15 consular workers were on strike Friday and they were encouraging others to join them. Other employees are local contract workers who are paid according to US laws.
Also, officials said, the consulates and embassies are required by law to remain open for emergencies despite the strike.
The labor action is another in a series of challenges for Brazil just days after it wrapped up the summer Olympics in Rio. Latin America’s biggest economy is reeling from its worst recession in over a century and its suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, is on trial for impeachment in the Senate.
Foreign-service workers launched the strike Monday after years of failed negotiations to raise their pay, and they say they will continue until their wages improve. Officials say the starting pay for a federal budget analyst in Brazil is about $1,751 a month, while a consular worker’s pay starts around $1,116 a month.
Ligia Capdeville da Paixão, another vice consul, said foreign-service workers fear they cannot afford to retire or care for their elderly parents once they return to Brazil.
“It’s scary,” she said. “I come from a simple family. I don’t have anyone to really rely on financially.”
Foreign Minister Jose Serra did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.