WorldThe lime shovel in the fight against slave labor in Brazil

The lime shovel in the fight against slave labor in Brazil

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Every time President Jair Bolsonaro and his base speak out about work and employment, they insist on exalting the need for “modernization”, “flexibility”, “cost reduction”, something that in practice means the removal of labor rights . What was not imagined —or perhaps, if one avoided thinking about it— was that the Chamber of Deputies would allow another attempt by the Government to reduce the rights of workers through the express and silent approval of MP 1.045/2021.

It is an interim measure initially issued to institute ways to fight the pandemic within the scope of labor relations, but which ended up gaining considerable tortoises that turned it into a new labor reform. Even given the importance of the topic, the text was approved without any participation or hearing from union entities, civil society and public bodies, which were taken by surprise and did not even have time to react.

In addition to being a direct attack on fundamental rights, especially of the young and the elderly, the measure fully reaches the fight against one of the most serious human violations that still persists in Brazil: work analogous to slavery. And it does so through the weakening and limitation of labor inspection power, one of the most important mechanisms for combating contemporary slavery in the country and once an international model.

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If approved, the MP will require, for example, the adoption of the “double visit” criterion for any and all violations that are verified by the labor inspection. This means that, even in very serious cases of violation of rights, such as child or slave labor, the labor inspector cannot immediately fine the employer. Rather, it must explain that such conduct is contrary to the law and provide opportunities for the voluntary correction of the illegality. Only in a second inspection, when the continuation of the violation is verified, can the penalty be applied.

The MP also foresees the need for guided and scheduled visits with employers when high rates of work accidents and occupational diseases are verified. Apparently, therefore, labor inspection would become a kind of consultative sector for employers – the labor inspectors, who, according to the text, would have the exclusive power to oversee compliance with labor standards and sign terms of commitment, would be relegated, in practice, to a merely recommendation function.

To further aggravate the situation, it is also foreseen that, even in the rare cases where it is possible to impose a fine on the employer, it can still be appealed to a board composed, including, by representatives of the employers, increasing the chance of the penalty to be reviewed.

There is no doubt that the scenario of work analogous to slavery tends to get worse with the approval of this provisional measure: more workers will be recruited, fewer cases will be discovered, fewer penalties will be imposed. It is a vicious circle of encouraging the transgression of legislation and the violation of rights that is not only serious from the perspective of human dignity, but also because it subjects the country to international condemnation. The world scene has shown itself to be increasingly intolerant of this inhumane practice, both by international organizations, as well as by the States themselves and even by national and transnational companies.

Now, it is up to the Federal Senate to have the opportunity to reverse this situation, taking a stand in favor of defending workers and preventing one more reason for shame for Brazil before the international community.

Julia Neiva she is coordinator of the Socio-environmental Rights Defense program at Conectas Human Rights.

Fernanda Drummond she is an advisor for the Socio-environmental Rights Defense program at Conectas Human Rights.

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