Brazil: Political coup followed by labour market putsch
UNI Global Union and its 20 million members are deeply concerned at the decision of the Brazilian government and its congress to implement draconian changes to the country’s labour laws. This from a government that has won its place by what amounts to a coup against the former President Dilma.
These laws will have dramatic and drastic implications for both workers and trade unions by impeding workers’ rights to be represented by unions and take part in collective bargaining. The laws will promote flexible working hours, including zero-hour contracts that are skewered in favour of the companies and penalize workers.
Regional Director of UNI Americas Marcio Monzane said, “This reform is an aggressive attack on workers and social protection. This move will take Brazil back in time and promote social exclusion, inequality and poverty.”
“The best way to solve an economic crisis period is by lifting the working class working class who can create a dynamic economy which provides for the needs of its citizens. We call on all our UNI affiliates to express their solidarity with Brazilian workers and remain steadfast in our opposition to these reforms.”
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “Let’s be clear, the new government has shown its true colours with the labour reforms announced the same day that former President Lula was handed down a nine-year sentence. It’s all in a day’s dirty work for the current Brazilian government and its cronies.
Details of the new labour laws
The law will allow companies to increase working hours at the same time as reducing other important rights, such as holiday periods and work breaks. Changes to maternity leave will also adversely affect families.
The new law will mean that shop stewards can be elected without the participation of unions in the electoral process.
Additionally, this law will reduce companies’ responsibilities in their supply chains, with contractors and with other companies.
Finally, the law will severely weaken collective bargaining by allowing companies to negotiate directly with workers on an individual basis. This includes deals that can be set below the legal standards.
Brazil has had a unique tax on working people where the funds collected are destined for the trade union movement. A similar tax is levied on companies for their organisations. These taxes, small as they are, will be ended, leading to a serious hemorrhage of union finances. Speaking at recent UNI Americas executive, Philip Jennings suggested a massive union building project should take place in Brazil. “We can answer these attacks by rebuilding unions from the ground up,” he said.