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31 Mär 2023

Brazil: Volkswagen faces allegations of slave labour use during military dictatorship; company denies

Since May 2022, the German group Volkswagen has been facing accusations of "practices analogous to slavery", "human trafficking" and "systematic human rights violations" in the country between 1973 and 1987, during the military dictatorship.

According to the workers' allegations, they were hired to deforest an area of 70,000 hectares to expand a company property called Fazenda Vale do Rio Cristalino, in the state of Pará. They also report "humiliating and degrading" working conditions, without access to basic sanitation and drinking water.

For the Public Ministry of Labour (MPT) "there is no doubt" that the company was aware of the conditions faced by the workers.

The MPT tried to reach an agreement with the company so that 14 identified workers would be compensated. Unsuccessful in negotiations, prosecutors said Brazil "will take all necessary judicial and extrajudicial measures to seek compensation for the damage caused by the company" in national courts and abroad.

Volkswagen denies all allegations and says it has no responsibility for the rights violations.

A company spokesperson said:

"Volkswagen do Brasil rejects all the allegations presented in the records of the current investigation of the Fazenda Vale do Rio Cristalino and rejects the unilateral statements of fact presented by third parties.

"Volkswagen do Brasil and the Ministério Público do Trabalho have continuously exchanged views on the matter. The company reiterates its commitment to social responsibility and ethical values and will continue to contribute to the working conditions of its employees, as well as to the positive evolution of society."