By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Not even the seven-hour sit-in promoted by the opposition, four of which were held in the dark, prevented Brazil’s Senate from approving the country’s new labor reform law on Tuesday. With a vote of fifty in favor and 26 against the bill was passed.
Calling it ‘one of the most ambitious reforms of the last thirty years’, President Michel Temer said he was pleased with results. “This approval of the bill is a victory for Brazil in the fight against unemployment and a more competitive country,” said Temer late Tuesday night.
The wide-margin victory, however, was a surprise after a day of increased tension in the Senate’s main plenary room, as seven senators took over the Senate president’s pulpit and refused to leave.
“This labor reform does not have an item in favor of the worker,” said opposition senator João Capiberipe. “It is an unilateral reform and it is stupid because it is recessive, workers’ income will fall, and we are deaf here, we do not see the obvious,” he added.
After a three-hour standstill, Senate President Eunicio Oliveira decided to turn off the lights and microphone system to force opposition senators out. Opposition senators, however, stood their ground. It was only after four hours in the dark, that Oliveira was able to resume the session and vote on the bill.
The bill was also heavily criticized by labor unions that said the bill would take away workers’ rights and bargaining power. The bill, however, decreases unions’ hold over workers, by ending the mandatory union contribution to all workers.
“Lay-offs, end of formal employment and legalization of freelancers”, warned CUT (Workers Union Confederation) president, Vagner Freitas, on the consequences of the new labor laws in a TV news program on Monday.
The new law also has new regulations as to vacation time and new rules for remote work and temporary workers. With the easing of labor rules the government hopes to decrease unemployment and improve the country’s economy.
The bill is expected to go to President Temer for sanction in the next few days.