Corporate Greed Takes Hold in Brazil

The decision by Brazil’s corruption-riddled parliament to eliminate a swathe of protections in the country’s labour laws will impoverish millions of people and leave workers completely at the mercy of employers who will have unilateral power to set wages, holiday entitlements, working hours and bonuses.

The hugely unpopular changes, forced through Brazil’s Senate on 12 July, will also make it harder for workers to join unions, and will reduce health and safety protections including for pregnant women workers, and strip unemployment insurance from many.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “This unprecedented dismantling of labour law is a recipe for corporate greed, with a small group of powerful oligarchs who want to turn back the clock to Brazil’s feudal past set to reap huge profits at the expense of ordinary working families. These same industrialists were the cheerleaders for the illegitimate ouster of President Dilma. They are the main beneficiaries of expected cuts to pension entitlements and of the 20-year austerity law, which deprives Brazil’s poor of social security, health and decent education.”

Tens of millions of Brazilians have mobilised in public demonstrations against the economic, social and labour agenda of the government led by Michel Temer, who deposed President Dilma in a constitutional coup last August, and currently has a public approval rating of around 7 per cent. Temer is facing serious corruption charges; however, two-thirds of the lower house of parliament must agree to the Supreme Court putting him on trial. Opposition lawmakers are now questioning the sudden disbursement of some USD 500 million in funding from the Temer administration to politicians and local authorities since the beginning of May. Several of Temer’s ministry have lost their jobs over corruption charges, and Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has said that corrupt payments to Temer himself may reach as high as USD 12 million.

Brazil’s most popular politician, former President Lula Da Silva, has meanwhile been given a 9½ year prison sentence by populist judge Sergio Moro, despite the lack of any real evidence to justify the judgement. Moro is a frequent guest on the Globo media conglomerate, which is owned by the Marinho family, one of the country’s richest families with combined wealth of over USD 10bn.

“The judgement by Sergio Moro, who has shown a complete lack of judicial independence in his pursuit of Lula, is a travesty of justice. While the truly corrupt continue to occupy seats in parliament and hold some of the highest offices of the state, the move against Lula is clearly designed to stop him running again for the Presidency, an election he would win easily given the level of support he has in the country, and the remarkable legacy of his years in office when millions were lifted out of poverty,” said Burrow.

ITUC President João Felicio said, “There is a deep disappointment on the part of most Brazilians with the illegitimate government. In addition to having come to power without popular support, the president opted to implement reforms against the interests of the Brazilian population. These reforms that are being implemented very fast without any consultation are leading to the isolation of this government. This alliance between the elite, the judiciary system and the main media groups knows that Lula is a person who has enormous capacity to mobilise against these harmful social reforms. This explains all the persecution and the recent unproven conviction of Lula.”