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  • According to the rights group Walk Free Foundation, more than 160,000 workers are still employed in inhumane conditions.

    According to the rights group Walk Free Foundation, more than 160,000 workers are still employed in inhumane conditions. | Photo: Reuters/Archive

Published 18 October 2017

The measures are illegal, added the ILO, as they contradict several points of the country's Criminal Code.

The International Labor Organization, or OIL, condemned President Michel Temer's move to facilitate the employment of slave workers in the country, saying that Brazil was not “a global reference in the fight against modern slavery but became now a negative example.”

Temer Responsible for Supporting Modern Slavery: Rights Groups

By introducing the measures in the lower Chamber, Temer is seeking the support of the “ruralist” group of lawmakers — about 200 out of 531, who represent the interests of the agribusiness, reported Pagina 12.

The organization denounced the nine modifications introduced in Congress the day before, as they will make it harder or even impossible for prosecutors to press charges against employers who use labor force in conditions similar to slavery.

Among them, slavery will not be defined as “exhaustive days in degrading conditions,” but only as such if a situation of “restriction of freedom” can be proved.

Restriction of freedom will only refer to the use of  force or armed guards against the workers therefore impeding them from leaving the workplace.

The bill would also modify the blacklist that includes the names of companies that use slave labor and other exploitative labor practices.

Also known as the "Dirty List", launched in November 2003, the list would only be released on the exclusive decision of the Labor Minister, and the blacklisted companies would not have to provide any kind of compensation to their workers anymore. If they want compensation, workers will have to go through the justice system with their own means.

In May 2016 — after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached — the Supreme Court's president first modified the rules to allow companies to remove their names from the blacklist if they agreed to improve work conditions.

Once in power, Temer then suspended the publication of the blacklist, despite attempts by the then Public Ministry to bring the case to an administrative court.

Nearly 350 companies were on the list when it was last published.

Blacklisting has been an extremely important tool in the fight against modern slavery in Brazil. While employers don't face prison sentences, the damaging international bad press is a strong incentive to stop abuse employment practices.

Blacklisted employers are also blocked from receiving government loans and have restrictions placed on sales of their products. They undergo private sector boycotts, as more than 400 banks and companies have signed the National Slave Eradication pact of 2005, pledging not to do business with blacklisted employers.

In August, human rights groups warned that inspections monitoring potential labor violations had dramatically stopped because of severe budget cuts this year.

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