Demonstrations in Brazil Photo: Roberto Parizotti

Brazilian workers are striking in response to ‘the generalization of job insecurity’ reports Orlando Hill

As I mentioned in my previous article despite the progressive forces having won the presidency, they lost the upper and lower houses of representatives and now Brazil has its “most conservative congress since democracy was reinstated in 1985”.

On Wednesday (8 April), the reactionary forces in the federal congress showed their strength by imposing a massive attack on workers’ rights. The bill of law PL 4330 approved by congress extends outsourcing and strips workers of rights they had conquered since 1943.

The national congress had to be shut down to keep the trade unions out of the building. Police force was used against trade union leaders and representatives of the Workers Party (PT). The representative of São Paulo, Vicentinho, had to receive medical care. Meanwhile the president of the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo State (FIESP) paraded unscathed through the halls of Congress.

“At least 400 representatives in congress are funded by corporations and are now responding to their bosses and attacking workers’ rights,” protested Vagner Freitas, the president of CUT (main national federation of trade unions. In the end, 324 representatives voted for the bill, 137 were opposed and only 2 abstained. PT (with 61 representatives) and PSOL (with 5) were the only two parties that voted in block against the bill. Shamefully, one member of the Communist Party (Carlos Eduardo Cadoca) voted in favour.

Outraged, Vagner Freitas spoke to protesters outside congress, “Today, in the National Congress, we saw representatives lead the largest process of withdrawal of rights in Brazil’s history.” Freitas pointed out, however, that there is no time for regret and confirmed for thei Wednesday, April 15 a national strike against the final approval of the PL 4330 by senate. “Our answer to the bosses will be in the streets, let’s stop Brazil.”

The PL 4330 sets no limits on outsourcing and states that any function, including the core business of the company can be outsourced. At the moment this is prohibited under Brazilian labour laws. The model can be adopted even by governmental bodies. According to Rosane da Silva, secretary of the Working Women of CUT, “What has been approved here is the generalization of job insecurity.”  Outsourcing opens the possibility for the worker to be fired without any rights.

In a recent video blog Erika Kokay (PT Brasilia) reminded her voters that the Coca Cola bottling plant in Sorocaba, SP had recently sacked its employees who earned on average R$2,200 per month and outsourced the bottling to a firm who contracted the same employees, but paying them R$1,200. 

Next Tuesday (14), the amendments presented by the political parties will be discussed and voted. Only then will the bill proceed to the Senate.

According to a survey carried out by CUT and the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE) and published in 2014, outsourced workers work three hours more on average, and receive 25% less for the same service. They are more exposed to occupational accidents, due to the shorter training period.

CUT fights for outsourced workers to have the same rights as contracted workers. They have prepared their own bill of law, PL 1621, which was presented by the representative of the state of São Paulo for PT Vicentinho. The bill of law guarantees that outsourced and contracted employees receive the same wages and benefits. It prohibits firms from outsourcing their core business and holds the firm which is contracting the services responsible when the contracted firm is unable to meet the rights of its employees.

The protests and strikes are being called by the three main confederations of trade unions, CUT, CTB (the trade union wing of the Communist Party of Brazil) and Intersindical along with PSOL, the Communist Revolutionary Party (PCR), the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) and others. These organisations have signed a manifesto that states that:

“it is essential to build an alternative political agenda that fights back against right-wing proposals and at the same time defends the rights of workers against the anti-democratic adjustments proposed by the state and federal governments. This common agenda should be the basis for the unification of all the popular sectors and the left around a calendar of mobilisations in defence and expansion of the rights of workers, poor people and all oppressed sectors of society. It also supports all the struggles and initiatives of resistance such as the strike of São Paulo teachers. Against the right, for more rights.

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.

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