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Embattled Rousseff pledges support for Brazil workers

02 may 2015, 13:48

 Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff took to social media Friday rather than make a formal May Day address to underscore her government's commitment to workers' rights, amid a foundering economy and graft scandal that threatens to derail her administration, AFP reports.

Brazil has been beset by four straight years of low growth since leftist Rousseff took office and her government is reeling from the country's worst ever corruption scandal which has seen dozens of politicians, mainly close allies, accused of collusion in a kickbacks scheme involving fat contracts with state-owned oil firm Petrobras.

Brazil's first female leader has reluctantly agreed to a slew of austerity measures to kickstart an economy hit by rising inflation, high interest rates, low growth and poor productivity, despite opposition from the traditional wing of her Workers Party (PT).

Releasing a trio of social media videos Rousseff insisted her government would always champion workers' rights, despite both the central bank and the International Monetary Fund predicting a recession this year.

"Over the past 13 years, Labor Day has been a day to value and celebrate the victories of the working class," Rousseff said, vowing to ensure minimum wages continue to outpace prices.

Re-elected to a second term last October, Rousseff noted that during her first term the minimum wage had outstripped inflation by 14.8 percent and she said she was determined to maintain social policies guaranteeing "a more just Brazil."

Legislation which Congress approved last month allowing companies to outsource work beyond non-essential posts has sparked controversy and concern among many employees and several leftist parties, including the PT, have warned against any erosion of worker rights.

Unions have protested at the plan, which still requires senate approval.

But Rousseff insisted that "my government is committed to maintaining worker rights and guarantees."

Unions held marches, notably in business hub Sao Paulo, to mark Workers Day with the main trade union federation, the Unified Workers' Central (CUT), protesting against the outsourcing legislation and warning it may call for strikes.

Rousseff's predecessor and mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attended the CUT rally at which he spoke out against outsourcing and added he had "no intention" of returning to the presidency.

Rousseff must step down after two consecutive terms at the end of 2018 and there has been speculation Lula might countenance a return.

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