Brazil justice ministry taken over in protest

President Michel Temer has said Brazil's economy faces a meltdown without severe fiscal discipline and belt tightening

Hundreds of prison system workers occupied Brazil's justice ministry on Tuesday in a dramatic protest against government retirement reforms.

The correctional workers started taking up positions in the Brasilia building in the afternoon, before shutting it down, local and social media showed.

"We have just occupied the Justice Ministry. And we're going to be here until lawmakers take us out of their bill," Fabio Cesar Ferreira, head of the Sao Paulo corrections union branch, said on a video posted on Facebook.

"We are in a horrible daily routine inside and outside the jails and prisons, in a degrading, unhealthy and unsafe workplace. How can we be included in the same rules as all of Brazil's workers?" he asked.

Demonstrators crowded the ministry's main hall, waiting for hours in vain to speak with lawmakers.

President Michel Temer has said Brazil's economy faces a meltdown without severe fiscal discipline and belt tightening.

His most controversial measure has been to curb pension costs by raising the retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women, up from the current 60 and 55.

The government is also pushing for a liberalization of labor laws and has succeeded in getting Congress to pass a 20-year freeze on spending increases.

Brazil's overcrowded jail system -- with more than 600,000 inmates -- is operating at 167 percent of capacity.