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AltAusterity Digest #108 August 22-28, 2019

This week in Austerity News:

Aug 30, 2019

A strike wave has spread across France with a third of emergency services workers currently on strike. Hospital staff have cited a lack of funding, declining working conditions and increasing precarity as reasons for striking. While the militancy originated in Paris in April, it has since spread to other parts of the country. The Inter-Urgences group, who is coordinating industrial action, has condemned the “slow destruction” of the public health service. Inter-Urgences has demanded 10,000 additional staff, a universal €300 wage rise and an end to cuts in hospital beds. French health minister Agnès Buzyn has portrayed the health care crisis as one of management rather than austerity, leading striking workers to further distrust the government’s ability to solve the system’s current problems.

The Toronto District School Board will have to cut around 300 full-time jobs due to a budget shortfall of $46.8 million for the 2019-20 school year. A report released on Wednesday has stated expected staff reductions for teachers, custodial staff and librarians. The changes made by the Ford government allowing for larger class sizes will also eliminate positions for supply teachers. These cuts come at the same time as the province is negotiating with the major teaching unions and industrial action in the education sector may be on the horizon.

Thiemo Fetzer discusses in The Harvard Business Review whether austerity in the UK lead to the Brexit crisis. As PM Boris Johnson has doubled down that the UK will leave the EU by October 31st “do or die,” it seems increasingly likely that many of the promises made by the Vote Leave campaign will be broken. Studies have found that the areas that supported Leave were generally less economically affluent and more reliant on the welfare state. According to Fetzer’s research, areas that suffered from austerity-induced cuts to the welfare system since 2010 were more likely to support the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Vote Leave, in part because of the “fiscal windfalls” promised from leaving the EU that would be able to fund public services.

Brazil’s Economy Minister Paulo Guedes is attempting to convince President Jair Bolsonaro to privatize the state-owned oil company Petrobras. Guedes, a University of Chicago-trained economist, is an influential member of Bolsonaro’s right-wing government and is pursuing a wider agenda of privatization and deregulation. Last week nine other state-owned companies were listed for privatization. However, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided in June that the any sale of Petrobras, the ninth-largest oil company in the world, must first be approved by congress. The Brazilian government currently holds a 43% stake in the company (with 50.3% of its voting shares). Despite Petrobras being the country’s largest company by revenue and operating profit, the government is looking to offload the enterprises’ $70 billion debt.

That's it for this week's Digest! Check back next Friday morning for another edition, or subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly roundup. We'll also Tweet each time we add new content, so you can keep up with our work @AltAusterity and join the #altausterity conversation.