Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014, 17:47 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Brazil

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Brazil, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88960c.html [accessed 1 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 194,946,000
Capital: Brasilia

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: 7

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

The year 2011 saw major labour disputes in the banking, civil aviation and fertiliser industries. Municipal cemetery worker held important negotiations following a hard-fought labour dispute. Slave-like working conditions still exist and the authorities are keeping up their campaign to track down and prosecute those responsible. Seven rural activists were killed in 2011.

Background

In 2011, Brazil became the world's sixth largest economy, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion dollars and 12,900 dollars per capita. The unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the region, fell to 6.2%. Brazil nonetheless remains faced with serious social challenges, such as the need to tackle the high rate of illiteracy, improve public health, eradicate the slave-like working conditions to which people, especially migrants, are subjected, and to fight the poverty affecting at least 16 million of Brazil's 190 million people.

Trade union rights in law

While basic trade union rights are guaranteed, a number of problematic areas exist in the law. The Constitution and the Labour Code protect the right of all workers to unionise, except for various state employees. The "unicidade" system stipulates that there can only be one trade union per economic or occupational category in each territorial area, and there are excessive requirements for establishing trade union centres.

Furthermore, the right to collective bargaining is not adequately secured, as an agreement can be declared null and void if deemed to conflict with the government's economic or financial policies. Civil servants have no collective bargaining rights, and bargaining on wages is limited in joint ventures and public companies.

Despite the right to strike being guaranteed for private and public sector workers alike, public service strikes are subject to a set of rules that have not yet been established. The national legislation contains a legal instrument known as a "prohibitory injunction", which is used to prevent any threat to the property or assets of a specific owner. It could be qualified as a form of indirect defence. This instrument is exploited to ban or restrict picketing, to "safeguard property against interference or despoilment". In October 2011, trade union organisations criticised this mechanism at a public hearing held by the Senate's Human Rights Commission, arguing that this instrument, in addition to undermining strike action, represents another way of criminalising social movements.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Slave labour in manufacturing industry: On 19 August 2011, the Labour Ministry discovered two manufacturing sweatshops in Sao Paulo employing 15 immigrants, mostly Bolivian and poor, who were being forced to work 16 hours a day in degrading conditions. According to an ILO study published in October 2011, the Brazilian Labour Inspectorate has, since 1995, freed over 36,000 people found working in slave-like conditions, without a contract or a wage.

Sao Paulo's municipal cemetery workers face collective bargaining deadlock: Municipal cemetery workers in charge of burials in the city of Sao Paulo, affiliated to the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores na Administração Pública e Autarquias do Município de São Paulo (Sindesp), went on strike on 30 August. The action went on for seven days. The workers were demanding a pay rise of 39%, given that their wages had not been reviewed since 1995.

Collective bargaining difficulties in civil aviation sector: On 21 October, the Sindicato Nacional dos Aeroportuários (SINA) led a 48-hour stoppage at Viracopos airport in the city of Campinas, around 100 km from Sao Paulo, in protest at the concession model chosen by the Brazilian government. Under the new model, ground operations, cargo handling, air navigation, fare control, specialised engineering and maintenance services will be contracted out to private companies, making employment conditions more precarious. The workers are still calling for their rights to be protected.

Zara fined for using slave labour: The Spanish fashion retailer Zara received 52 different fines for a whole range of irregularities, such as outsourcing the manufacture of its products to companies employing migrant labour to work over 16 hours a day in slave-like and unsanitary conditions.

Violations

Collective bargaining rights violated at fertiliser company Vale: In March 2011, the fertiliser company Vale, based in Araucaria in the state of Paraná, decided to disregard the negotiations it had engaged in with the petrochemical workers' union Sindicato dos Trabalhadores nas Indústrias Petroquímicas (Sindiquímia). The company, showing total contempt for the workers' demands, presented its own proposal, in which longstanding clauses of the collective agreement had been removed along with hard-fought gains in terms of health and safety. The workers rejected the proposal and no agreement had been reached by the end of the year.

Seven rural activists assassinated: Seven rural workers defending land rights were killed between May and August in the states of Pará and Rondonia. Attempts to denounce the illegal exploitation of natural resources led to an increase in violence in 2011. More than 1,150 rural or environmental activists, small farmers, judges, priests and other rural workers have been killed since 1998 in disputes over land rights and environmental protection issues.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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