World Economy

Brazil Workers’ Rights Under Threat

Brazil Workers’ Rights Under ThreatBrazil Workers’ Rights Under Threat

Despite a very unstable political climate, Michel Temer’s government and Brazil’s parliamentarians are trying to get a series of social protection and labor code reforms adopted through an accelerated procedure–without consulting the social partners.

Excluded from the process of drafting these new laws, the trade unions have been mobilizing since March, holding demonstrations and organizing a general strike, which took place on April 28 this year and in which 40 million people around the country took part, AP reported.

The liberalization of labor contracting has already been approved by the chamber of deputies, while the pensions’ reform and the labor code reform are due to be voted on by parliamentarians in the coming weeks.

Yet the majority of Brazilians are opposed to these reforms: 71% opposed the measures to reform the laws on retirement when they were announced, while 64% feel that the new labor code favors companies rather than workers.

All the signs are, however, that they will be approved–even in the midst of the political crisis surrounding the president–as stated recently by the Economy Minister Henrique Meirelles, in an interview with foreign investors in May.

In order to reassure them, the minister promised that as far as the pension law reforms were concerned, “the leaders of the parliamentary groups are aware that the fiscal measures must be approved and they are continuing to work to that end.” He added that a delay of a month or two wouldn’t make any difference.

“The pensions’ reforms are very worrying because they will exclude some of the population from accessing this right. The labor code reform is even more serious, however, because it undermines, without any debate, nearly a century of social struggle for workers’ rights,” says a very concerned Clemente Ganz Lucio, technical director of the Inter-Union Department of Socio-Economic Studies and Statistics, a specialized labor training and research body linked to the four major Brazilian national trade union centers.

The bill, currently being examined in the senate, proposes over one hundred changes to the rules governing the labor world.

“The text goes from very minor details such as workplace clothing to articles that completely undermine the role of the trade unions, the bargaining process and workers’ fundamental rights,” Ganz Lucio told Equal Times.

According to the government, the reforms are aimed at stimulating employment and encouraging business activity in an economic recession that began two years ago and which has seen unemployment reach a record high of 13.6% of the working population (compared to 4.8% in 2014).

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