Senate seeks to resolve deadlock over salary floor for nurses

nurses salary floor
Health worker complains about low and delayed wages. Photo: Jair Ferreira Belafacce/Shutterstock

Brazilian Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco on Monday presented four bills that could soften the blow of the new salary floor for nurses on the finances of states, municipalities, and philanthropic hospitals. 

At the same time, the rapporteur of the 2023 budget in the Senate, Marcelo Castro, suggested that the extra costs incurred by a higher salary floor could be exempt from the spending cap rule, a maneuver also being considered to keep the Auxílio Brasil benefit at BRL 600 per month next year. 

The Senate, along with President Jair Bolsonaro’s Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, is racing to seek solutions for how states and municipalities can pay for the new nursing wage floor, which was approved by lawmakers two months ago but has had its implementation suspended by a Supreme Court injunction earlier this month. 

The issue is now an electoral one for President Bolsonaro, while it has also sparked discussions around the fiscal constraints for the measures that the government and Congress want to adopt in 2023. 

In a video distributed to journalists, Senator Castro said that both former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Mr. Bolsonaro have declared that, if elected, they will maintain the Auxílio Brasil at BRL 600 next year (the benefit has for now been temporarily raised from BRL 400 as part of the Bolsonaro government’s electoral measures). This would mean an extra cost of BRL 50 billion. “There’s no other way to do this than to take the program out of the spending cap,” says Mr. Castro. 

Mr. Pacheco will discuss the rapporteur’s proposal this Tuesday.

The Senate’s proposals regarding the nursing wage floor range from the distribution of federal aid worth BRL 3.3 billion to philanthropic service providers to the possibility of states and municipalities reallocating surplus resources to health funds, among other suggestions. 

But so far, none of the proposals presented solve the issue of high costs for private operators. Mr. Pacheco defended the establishment of the wage floor and a period of evaluation of the financial impact in the private sector. If necessary, he said, Congress could pass initiatives such as a payroll tax exemption, but only to the extent needed to absorb the initial impact of the new law.