Teachers joined thousands of other public sector and private sector workers in Brazil last Thursday in a 'Day of Struggle' demanding better public services and working conditions. The day had been called by the largest trade union federation. 80 major highways were blocked and thousands of schools and workplaces were closed for the day. Thousands marched in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and ports were blocked by striking dockworkers.

The protests follow last month's mass demonstrations, which focused on the poor state of public services in the country at a time when it was spending billions of dollars on building football stadiums and sports facilities for the forthcoming World Cup and Olympic Games. At that time banners were carried with slogans like: 'A Teacher is worth more than a Footballer.'

The issues are complicated in Brazil by a perception among many of last month's protestors that union leaders were part of a system which is still characterised by corruption. In May teachers went on strike demanding higher pay and the training and hiring of more teachers - Brazil is short of at least 300,000 teachers, meaning that class sizes are high and schools suffer from problems of violence. In Sao Paulo at that time the local teaching union leadership were defended by club-wielding secutiry forces, when they were attacked by angry teachers for calling off the strike.