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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Brazil

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Brazil, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
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: 193,700,000
Capital: Brasilia
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 111 – 138 – 182

A number of trade unionists were killed in 2010, in spite of government efforts to tackle this problem. The persecution of trade unionists, anti-union practices and dismissals persisted in the private sector. The government fined companies employing workers, some migrant, in slave-like conditions in the agricultural and garment sectors. Trade union pluralism is restricted and the authorities have the right to reject collective agreements.


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 public and mixed enterprises.

Although the right to strike is guaranteed for private and public sector workers alike, striking in the public services is subject to a set of rules that have not yet been established. Finally, the legal instrument known as an "interdito proibitório" (prohibitory ban) has been used to ban or restrict strike pickets on the grounds of "safeguarding property against interference or despoilment".


Background: Over the last eight years, Brazil has created over 15 million formal jobs, 2.5 million in 2010. Unemployment has fallen, going from 12% to less than 6%. The minimum wage was increased by 67% as a result of an agreement between the government and the trade union centres, leading to poverty being reduced by over 20%. The rate of informal employment however remained very high, at almost 47%, along with growing underemployment. In 2010, Brazil adopted a national plan for decent work.

As part of its policy against discrimination at work, the government announced that it would submit the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families to Congress for ratification.

Serious harassment and persecution of union leader at Claro, América Móvil: In March 2010, a director at Claro, América Móvil perpetrated acts of persecution against trade union leader Valdemar Antonio da Silva Junior, to stop him from taking part in the union elections, of which the company had been legally notified. The same director then went on to sack the trade union leader, who was ultimately reinstated on the grounds that the rights protecting him as a trade unionist had been violated. The persecution continued, with ruthless moral harassment that finally resulted in the trade union leader being admitted to hospital due to the severe stress suffered.

Agricultural labour leader assassinated: On 31 March, Pedro Alcántara de Souza, policy coordinator of the agricultural union FETRAF in Pará, was killed in the municipality of Redenção in the south of Pará. Pedro Alcántara had informed the Human Rights Forum that he had been receiving threats from estate owners over the last month. The authorities are still investigating the case.

Trade union leader allegedly killed by security guard at Sony: On 1 October, Augusto Lima da Cruz, leader of the metalworkers' union, Sindicato dos Metalúrgicos, affiliated to the national metalworkers' confederation CNM-CUT, was killed. According to witnesses, the leader was killed by security guard Hernani Puga Neto from the Visam security firm providing security services to Sony, whilst holding a conversation about the company's policies. Hernani took flight on a motorbike, assisted by the other security guards.

Trade unionist killed in São Paulo: On 12 November, José Carlos da Silva, a member of the transport union Sindicato dos Motoristas e Trabalhadores em Transporte Rodoviário Urbano de São Paulo, was killed. He was shot at several times by two men whilst in his car.

Dismissals and anti-union practices at Santander Group: The wave of dismissals seen within the Santander Group during 2009 continued into 2010, as the company pursued its policy of violating trade union rights and guarantees and disregarding the OECD guidelines on multinational companies. The group also deployed anti-union practices affecting the workers' right to organise and to strike.

Farms fined for holding workers in slave-like conditions: One hundred and eighty workers were freed from slave-like conditions at farms owned by the Lima Araújo Agropecuaria company in the state of Pará. Among the employees were ten teenagers, including a boy aged 14. The High Court of Labour ordered the company to pay a fine of US$2.9 million.

Workers being kept like slave labourers were also discovered in the state of Rio de Janeiro, where 95 were rescued from farms in Campo de Goytacazes. Another 51 were rescued in Cambui, in the state of Minas Gerais. They were employed as strawberry pickers and sugarcane workers.

Migrant workers exploited by Lojas Marisa: In 2010, garment manufacturer Lojas Marisa was found to have undocumented migrants working for it in precarious and unsanitary conditions for more than 12 hours a day. The Regional Department of Labour in São Paulo fined the company, as well as ordering it to register the 17 workers found in the garment workshop and to pay them the wages owed for the work done.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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