ILO: Brazil’s new labor rules weaken worker protections

October 19, 2017

SAO PAULO (AP) — The International Labor Organization warned Thursday that Brazil’s new rules defining slave-like working conditions could weaken the country’s efforts to protect workers.

Slave-like labor in Brazil was previously defined as work that included degrading conditions and excessive workloads. After new rules issued earlier this week, that definition now applies only if workers are forced to stay at their jobs.

The Labor Ministry said in a statement posted on its website the changes were aimed at improving the granting of “unemployment benefits to workers rescued from inhumane conditions,” but did not provide additional details.

“Combating slave labor is a permanent public policy of the state,” the ministry’s statement said.

The ILO said that the rules jeopardize the country’s efforts to improve labor laws, and critics have said they are a bid by President Michel Temer to gain support from the agribusiness lobby as he faces a possible trial on corruption charges.

Slave-like working conditions are relatively widespread in many parts of Brazil, where poor laborers are lured into arduous jobs and become indebted to plantation and factory owners for necessities such as food and transportation.

As a result of the changes, a list of employers who submit workers to slave-like conditions will only be published if the Labor Ministry decides to make it public.

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