By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The government of Brazil announced on Monday (October 16th) that it was changing the definition of slave labor in the country. The decision was met with criticism from politicians, labor entities, human rights advocates and even the United Nation’s International Labor Organization (ILO).

Brazil,Rural laborers are the ones most in danger of falling into slave labor,
Rural laborers are the ones most in danger of falling into slave labor, photo by Cicero Omena/Flickr

“Brazil, as of today, is no longer a reference in the fight against slavery that was being held in the international community,” said Antonio Rosa, ILO representative in Brazil and coordinator of the Program to Combat Slave Labor told reporters.

The new rules determined by the Ministry of Labor, include, among other things, that in order to be considered degrading labor conditions, it is necessary that there be deprivation of the right to come and go.

In addition, the release of the names of those companies found to hire and maintain workers under degrading conditions will no longer be the responsibility of the Department of the Eradication of Slave Labor, but of the Ministry of Labor and will only be updated twice a year.

The criticism also came from President Temer’s allies. “This government once again meets the demands of the rural Congressional representatives, and changes the concept of slave labor in Brazil, making it difficult to catch companies in the act,” said on social media Carlos Bezerra Jr., São Paulo state representative from the PSDB party and responsible for the current São Paulo legislation on slave labor.

For the national coordinator for the Federal Prosecutor’s Eradication of Slave Labor Division, Tiago Muniz Cavalcanti, the new rules violate both national legislation and international commitments signed by Brazil. “The government is holding hands with those who enslave.”

In a press release the Ministry of Labor, however, defended the changes stating that the new rules ‘improve and give legal security to the State’s action, providing the concepts of forced labor, exhaustive working hours and conditions analogous to slave labor’.

“The fight against slave labor is a permanent public policy of State, which has received all the administrative support of this Ministry, with concrete positive results in relation to the number of rescues, and in inhibiting criminal practices of this nature, which offend the most basic principles of dignity of the human person,” read the statement.

Labor entities and human rights groups say they plan to demonstrate against the decisions made by the Temer Administration.


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