Brazil: Civil society, ILO and prosecutors claim that new gov. rules changed contemporary slavery concept & jeopardizes combat to slave labour

Brazil forced labour_credit_Sérgio Carvalho/MTE_http://reporterbrasil.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/trabalhoescravo3.jpg

Civil society organizations such as Reporter Brasil, Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commision), InPACTO, Conectas, Instituto Ethos de Empresas e Responsabilidade Social (Ethos Institute Business and Social Responsibility), authorities as the International Labor Organization in Brazil, prosecutors of the Federal Public Ministry and the Labour Prosecutors offices, judges such as the Associação Nacional dos Magistrados da Justiça do Trabalho (Anamatra, National Association of Magistrates of Labour Justice), among others, argue that the decree published by the Ministry of Labour on 16 October changes the concept of contemporary slavery in the country and seriously jeopardizes the fight against slave labour. The representative of the ILO in Brazil stated that the country is no longer a reference in the fight against slave labour. The Frente Parlamentar Agropecuária (Parliamentary Agricultural and Livestock Alliance,FPA), also known as the ruralist group, denied having pressed the Ministry of Labour for the publication of the new ruling. Last week the Ministry of Labour dismissed the chief of the division for the eradication of slave labour, André Roston, who had told a Senate commission "that budget cuts meant it was impossible to carry out new inspections" last August. For more information about the context in which the ruling was published, see here in Portuguese.

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Article
20 October 2017

Brazil: Campaigners say new ruling changes the circumstances under which slavery is defined, limiting it to a victim's freedom of movement

Author: Karla Mendes, Thomson Reuters Foundation (Brazil)

"Brazil's fight against slavery seen at risk with new labour rule-Under the new decree, labour inspectors will now be required to include a police report as evidence", 19 October 2017
...[C]ampaigners said...[the]..decree...is a major setback in combatting slave labour because it changes the circumstances under which slavery is defined, limiting it to a victim's freedom of movement...Rights groups estimate hundreds of thousands of people work in slave-like conditions on farms, sugar cane plantations and cattle ranches across Brazil's remote and jungle areas, as well as in urban factories and construction sites. "The violation of (human) dignity is the main point that characterises the Brazilian definition of slavery," said Dominican friar Xavier Plassat, who heads the Pastoral Land Commission anti-slavery campaign. "This isn't only a question of the violation of freedom but of negating dignity through degrading conditions and an exhaustive work day." Adilson Carvalho, who heads the national commission for the eradication of slave labour at Brazil's ministry of human rights, said it was not consulted about the changes...Brazil has about 2,000 labour inspectors who raid locations where slave labour is suspected, and more than 50,000 victims of forced labour have been freed in the past two decades...Under the new decree, labour inspectors will now be required to include a police report as evidence. Renato Bignami, an inspector with the ministry of labour, said the new rules heralded "extremely negative" changes. Federal and labour prosecutors have issued a joint recommendation to the government, saying the decree is illegal. They said if the government does not revoke the measure, prosecutors would mount a legal challenge...Campaigners say changes to Brazil's anti-slavery law are politically motivated ahead of a vote - expected within days - over the fate of President Michel Temer...

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Article
20 October 2017

Brazil: Civil society, ILO and prosecutors claim that new gov. rules changed contemporary slavery concept & jeopardizes combat to slave labour

Author: Dom Phillips, The Guardian (UK)

"'Fewer people will be freed': Brazil accused of easing anti-slavery rules-Critics say move cosies up to agribusiness lobby in a bid to build support for President Michel Temer before a crucial vote over making him face trial", 17 October 2017

The Brazilian government has been accused of reducing its ability to protect workers from slave-like labour conditions after abruptly changing the rules. Campaigners, commentators and prosecutors said the move was a "social regression" aimed at buying the support of a powerful agribusiness lobby ahead of a crucial vote in congress that could cost President Michel Temer his mandate. A government directive by the ministry of labour published on Monday redefined what the government defines as "slave-like work" – even though Brazil's efforts to stop abusive labour conditions were praised as recently as last year by the United Nations. The ministry will no longer automatically publish its "dirty list" of employers whose workers were kept under abusive conditions...Many of the employers on the list are farmers. "For us it will be a real regression in the battle against slave labour. It will make the definition harder and make inclusion on the 'dirty list' harder...It will be good for those who use slave labour...[said Maurício Brito, vice-coordinator for the eradication of slave labour for public prosecutors in Brasília]...Prosecutors plan to mount a legal challenge to the new rules...Before the new decree, four conditions were used to categorise "slave-like labour" – being forced to work; being obliged to work to pay off debts; degrading conditions that put workers' health or dignity at risk; an excessive workload that threatened workers' health. Now the last two conditions only apply if workers are also forcibly kept in place – and inspections will also need a completed police report to be accepted as evidence. Critics said the changes and increase in bureaucracy would make it harder to rescue workers..."...[F]ewer workers can be freed. There are workers in slave-labour conditions who will not be rescued," said Leonardo Sakamoto, founder of...Repórter Brasil and a member of the board of trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery..."Combating slave labour is a permanent public policy of the state," the ministry's statement said. Last week the ministry dismissed the chief of the division for the eradication of slave labour, André Roston. In August he had told a Senate commission that budget cuts meant it was impossible to carry out new inspections...

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Article
20 October 2017

Brazil: International Labor Organization says fight against slave labor in Brazil may face setback

Author: Alex Rodrigues, Agência Pública (Brazil)

"ILO: Fight against slave labor in Brazil may face setback", 19 October 2017
In a statement...[on 19 October]...the International Labor Organization (ILO) said that the Brazilian government's decision to change the definition of slave labor "interrupts a successful trajectory that turned Brazil into a role model and a global leader in the fight against slave labor." The organization also criticized the change in inspection rules and how blacklists with the names of criminal employers were released...[It]...argues that the new norm may undermine and restrain law enforcement efforts in labor, leaving "a portion of the Brazilian population even more fragile, unprotected, and vulnerable." Since...[16 October]...when it was made public, the law has met with criticism from trade organizations and social movements that believe the move violates both international conventions subscribed by the country and Brazil's own legislation...The new law, however, only regards as slavery the activities carried out under coercion or restriction of workers' liberty to come and go. These circumstances, ILO argued, could only be detected if monitoring agents found armed guards limiting the movement of workers or if they discovered that their documents were being confiscated by employers...[T]he possible developments of the new rule may be studied by an expert committee at the organization. Also mentioned was the risk that the changes may prevent Brazil from meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the eradication of slave-like labor by 2030...

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Author: Piero Locatelli e Thais Lazzeri, Repórter Brasil (Brazil)

"Medida do governo Temer coloca em risco combate ao trabalho escravo-Portaria publicada pelo Ministério do Trabalho muda o conceito de escravidão contemporânea no país. Procuradores, juízes, auditores e organizações da sociedade civil criticam a medida", 16 de outubro de 2017
"Um retrocesso de 20 anos", "pá de cal" e "maracutaia". Essas são algumas das formas que entidades ligadas à erradicação da escravidão contemporânea no país descrevem a nova portaria do Ministério do Trabalho sobre o combate a esse crime....A Secretaria de Inspeção do Trabalho (SIT), que coordena a atividade dos auditores fiscais, circulou um memorando interno afirmando que não foi consultada na elaboração da portaria...Outras entidades também afirmaram terem sido surpreendidas. "A portaria acaba com o conceito de trabalho escravo contemporâneo, reconhecido pela Organização Internacional do Trabalho como um avanço por reconhecer a moderna escravidão," diz Antônio Carlos de Mello, coordenador do programa de combate ao trabalho forçado da Organização Internacional do Trabalho no Brasil. As fontes ouvidas pela reportagem atribuem a publicação da portaria à pressão histórica de entidades ligadas ao agronegócio, ao setor têxtil e à construção civil. O fato de a medida ter sido tomada sem uma discussão prévia também tem sido duramente criticado."Eles tentaram fazer isso através de lei no Congresso Nacional e não conseguiram, porque a sociedade não permitiu. Agora, estão tentando isso por outras formas," diz a procuradora da República Ana Carolina Roman...[O]...Ministério Público estuda a possibilidade de entrar na Justiça contra a portaria, mesma possibilidade levantada pela Associação Nacional dos Magistrados da Justiça do Trabalho (Anamatra)...Caio Magri, diretor executivo do Instituto Ethos de Empresas e Responsabilidade Social, também critica a falta de discussão...Já o deputado estadual Carlos Bezerra Jr. (PSDB-SP), autor da lei paulista de combate à escravidão, aponta que a portaria "é uma gravíssima violação democrática e a expressão clara do espírito autoritário e descompromissado com o direitos humanos desse governo"...[O]...Ministério do Trabalho afirma que "o combate ao trabalho escravo é uma política pública permanente de Estado e que vem recebendo todo o apoio administrativo desta pasta, com resultados positivos concretos relativamente ao número de resgatados, e na inibição de práticas delituosas dessa natureza, que ofendem os mais básicos princípios da dignidade da pessoa humana"...[A]pós receber duras críticas pelas mudanças, o Ministério do Trabalho atualizou sua nota oficial...[A]...Frente Parlamentar Agropecuária (FPA),...[a]...bancada ruralista, nega que tenha interferido junto ao Ministério do Trabalho para a publicação da portaria...

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