As more than 20 postal workers in Brazil have died from Covid-19, the country’s postal service, Correios, has heeded union demands and stopped plans to use post offices to distribute emergency aid without a proper risk assessment or safety protocols.

Proposals to issue benefits through the post office could bring up to 18 million people into branches, which don’t have the necessary safety protections or social distancing measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Unions say postal workers lack personal protective equipment and adequate safety protocols to help prevent both workers and customers from contracting Covid-19.

UNI Global Union sent a letter to the President of Correios, expressing the concern of all unions in the post and logistics sector at the global level, and urging the company to take urgent measures to safeguard the lives of workers.

Following the intervention by UNI and its postal affiliates, FINDECT and FENTECT, Correios has delayed its decision to accept claims from 25 May and says it is now adapting its systems to be able to provide the service in the future.

“Thanks to UNI’s rapid response, both the president of Correios and the Minister of Communications suspended the resumption of the sector’s activities until the demands for protection for both workers and customers are met,” said Jose Rufino, Legal Secretary of FINDECT. 

Emerson Marinho, Press Secretary of FENTECT, added: “After UNI sent the letter to the Correios authorities calling for safety measures to protect workers during this crisis, they realized that international organizations were monitoring the situation and the lack of protocols for postal workers in Brazil. What UNI has done is very important to strengthen the fight of the postal workers who are on the frontline.”

Unions are also fighting plans by the government to privatize the post office in Brazil. Marcio Monzane, regional secretary of UNI Americas, said:

“The postal service reaches the most remote places in the Brazilian territory to provide help and response. In this period of crisis, the role played by Correios has been fundamental; all postal workers have done a titanic job in this pandemic that has left frontline workers very unprotected. We reiterate again that the idea of privatizing the postal service in Brazil is wrong, from both an economic and social perspective.”

“We’re glad that Correios has taken note of our calls to carry out a proper assessment of safety before unnecessarily exposing more workers to Covid-19 in the grip of a pandemic. We urge Correios and postal services around the world to follow our safety guidelines for the sector to ensure the very best protections for workers and the public during the coronavirus crisis. UNI Post&Logsitics will continue to support Brazilian unions in their struggle to protect postal workers,” remarked Cornelia Berger, Head of UNI Post&Logistics.