The Brazilian Senate's approval of President Michel Temer's unamended labor reform bill, on Tuesday night, has drawn angry reactions from trade unions and the Brazilian left. Former president, Dilma Rousseff, tweeted that “Brazil is in mourning. After 74 years of victories, by 50 votes, the Senate handed workers a defeat.
Even before the reform passed, Vagner Freitas, president of Brazil's Central Worker's Union, CUT, stressed that the “proposal being voted in the Senate puts an end to formal employment.”
Senator Gleisi Hoffman, recently-elected president of the Worker's Party, said that what happened in Brazil's Senate on Tuesday, “shames the nation.” She added that the minds of all senators who voted in favor of labor reform is founded in a “regime of slavery.”
— Dilma Rousseff (@dilmabr) July 12, 2017
Brazil is in mourning. After 74 years of victories, by 50 votes, the Senate handed workers a defeat. The CLT (Consolidation of Labor Laws) is dead.
That idea is developed further by Pedro Paulo Zahluth Bastos in an article entitled, “From Slavery to Labor Reform”. Bastos argues that while Brazil, the last country in the western world to abolish slavery, attempted to “civilize work relations” with its 1988 Constitution, the nation's prevailing social inequalities were ignored. With the rise of Temer in 2016, the tendency to treat those inequalities as problems of "law and order", to be dealt with by the police, became even more pronounced.
Following Rousseff's impeachment, in what many regard as a parliamentary coup, labor reform became the central pillar of a host of austerity measures and neoliberal policies, which return labor relations to something resembling the days of legalized slavery.
Temer's reform changes more than a hundred clauses in Brazil's Consolidated Labor Law, or CLT, which was first introduced in 1943 by President Getulio Vargas. Some of the most devastating aspects, according to lawyer Isaac Yarochewsky, include:
- If a worker is contracted as “intermittent” (article 443), she or he is not guaranteed the minimum wage, holidays, or a Christmas bonus. These will be up to the employer.
- Workers will no longer be able to choose which worker's union represents them. She or he will be obliged to accept all decisions made by arbitrarily selected unions.
- After collective bargaining negotiations, severely weakened by the arbitrary selected of the trade union, employers will be legally allowed to eliminate previously established workers' rights.
- If a worker's arbitrarily selected union implements a norm that is damaging to union members, then no member will have the legal right to contest the measure in court.
- A worker's physical safety is valued in accordance with each worker's wages. In other words, if a worker suffers an accident at work, (roughly 700,000 occur each year in Brazil and even former president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, lost a finger while operating heavy equipment) “your life is worth how much you earn” according to article 223-G.
- If a worker, for whatever reason, fails to attend a court hearing related to her or his accident, the worker will be obliged to reimburse the State for expenses incurred. She or he will also have to pay back the company's legal fees.
- Workers who earn more than $685 a month and are fired from their position without receiving past wages or a severance package will be required to pay their own legal fees to bring the case to the Justice Department. Litigation could take years and there's no guarantee that the worker will receive a favorable ruling. Also, a worker's rent, children's school fees, or any other personal expenses will not be taken into consideration when determining the legal fees he or she must pay.
- The termination of contracts "by mutual accord" will be implemented. In other words, formal job layoffs will be a thing of the past. Workers can simply be asked to kindly leave the premises.
- Pregnant women will not be protected against working in unhealthy environments. That includes working in noisy, dusty, sunny, and other harmful environments as long as a doctor authorizes it.