Two Coca-Cola production and distribution centers in Brazil were accused by government officials of subjecting workers to slave-like labor conditions, according to a report released by Reporter Brasil Thursday.
In a seven-month long inspection carried out by the Brazilian Ministry of Labor it was discovered that 179 truck drivers of Spal Brazilian Beverage Industries, which is a licensed manufacturer of Coca-Cola, had been forced to work excessive overtime hours, ranging from 80 to 140 extra hours per month.
Due to their demanding schedules, it was revealed that drivers were often denied sleep and rest between shifts, which according to Reporter Brasil, led to a variety of physical and mental health related issues, such as “body aches, stress, lack of interaction with family members and almost no leisure time.”
As part of its investigation, Reporter Brasil noted that Spal had been previously penalized by judicial authorities for imposing unethical labor practices on its workers.
The article cites that in 2013 and 2014 former truck drivers sued the company, which eventually lead to a court ruling that determined employees of Spal had been subjected to degrading working conditions "due to strenuous working hours.”
"There were days that began at four and five in the morning and ended between 10 and 11 at night,” Brazilian judge Graça Freitas told Reporter Brasil.
Despite the most recent evidence uncovered by Brazilian authorities, the Femsa group, which is the parent company of Spal, denied the allegations of slave-like labor conditions when questioned by Reporter Brasil.
“We reiterate that despite the occurrence of paid overtime, our practice involves ensuring the appropriate conditions of comfort and hygiene to all our employees,” Femsa said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Coca-Cola company also issued a statement in response to the recent accusations.
“Coca-Cola Brazil has taken note of the excessive overtime hours worked by employees of Femsa, even though fully paid, we are following a plan of action set by the manufacturer to rectify this situation,” Coca-Cola Brazil said in its statement to Reporter Brasil.
Since 2003, the Brazilian government has put an emphasis on trying to eradicate forced labor in Brazil. The government created a running list of companies with exploitative labor practices, also known as the "Dirty List," includes the names of companies that use slave labor.
If after two years a company pays all its fines and proves that it has remedied working conditions, it is removed from the list. Blacklisted employers are blocked from receiving government loans and having restrictions placed on sales of their products.
Brazilian officials have rescued over 50,000 people from working in slavery since 1995, with 10,000 of those between 2011 and 2015 alone, according to government data.
Brazil has about 200,000 people working as modern-day slaves, according to the International Labor Organization.