Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Brazil

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Brazil, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 23 October 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 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade union activists and leaders met with extreme and repeated violence in 2009. Precarious contracts continued to be the norm and are used as a means of flouting trade union and labour rights. Trade union pluralism is restricted and the authorities have the right to reject collective agreements.

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 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".

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Brazil faced tough market conditions during 2009, largely as a result of the global economic crisis. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was faced with hundreds of layoffs in the private sector and had to take measures to safeguard workers' conditions and maintain social dialogue between employers, workers and the government.

Rural trade union leader Raimundo Nonato murdered: Raimundo Nonato, general secretary of the Tucuruí rural workers' union, affiliated to the national agricultural workers' confederation, CONTAG, was murdered on 16 April, some 300 kilometres from Belem, in the state of Pará. Nonato had received repeated death threats from a number of landowners and people involved in extraction operations and the illegal sale of wood. He was an active rights defender in the land dispute.

Fishing union leader Paulo Santos Souza murdered: Paulo Santos Souza, treasurer of the fishing union, Associação dos Homens do Mar (AHOMAR), was murdered in front of his family on 22 May in Magé, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. At the time of his murder, the trade unionist was fighting against irregularities in the construction of a gas pipeline in the area by multinational company Petrobras. Other union members also received death threats following their protests against damage to the flora and fauna of Bahía de Guanabara as a result of the operations at the petrochemical complex.

Trade union leader Josenaldo Alves da Silva of Frigorífico Bertín S.A. murdered: Josenaldo Alves da Silva, leader of the local commerce workers' union in Redenção, head of the Santana do Araguaia branch union and an employee at Brazil's largest meat exporter Frigorífico Bertin S.A., was murdered on 1 June in Santana do Araguaia, in the state of Pará. He was shot three times in the head. Robbery was ruled out as a motive, as nothing was stolen from the victim. The trade unionist had received threats over his role in the defence of workers in the food industry.

Rural workers' rights activist Elton Brum da Silva murdered: Elton Brum da Silva was murdered on 21 August by a military police officer during an operation to remove landless farmers from Hacienda Southall, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. He was a member of the landless rural workers' movement, MST, which was demanding respect for workers' rights in the context of the land disputes in Brazil.

Murder attempt on agrarian sector trade union leader Elio Neves: On 23 August, near the city of Araraquara in the state of Sao Paulo, Elio Neves, general secretary of the salaried rural workers' federation of Sao Paulo, FERAESP, affiliated to the IUF, received several shots to the head whilst he slept. The trade unionist is one of the leading figures in the fight for decent work in the agricultural sector of Brazil, which is plagued by persistent rural violence.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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