In recent weeks several rescues of people in conditions analogous to slavery have been reported, turning society's eyes to the issue. One of the cases that gained most repercussion reveals the rescue of 207 employees hired by an outsourced company that provided labor to three large wineries in the Serra Gaúcha during the grape harvest.
The rescued employees reported that they worked from 5am to 8pm, with no breaks, and only on Saturdays off. They also mentioned that the employer offered only rotten food, unduly discounted their wages, applied fines and threatened their families. In addition, they were prevented from leaving the premises, beaten and beaten with electric shocks and pepper spray.
Na última quinta-feira (09/03/2023) as vinícolas envolvidas assinaram um Termo de Ajuste de Conduta (TAC), onde as empresas assumiram obrigações de fazer e de não fazer, a fim de aperfeiçoar o processo da tomada de serviços, com a fiscalização das condições de trabalho e direitos dos trabalhadores próprios e terceirizados. Além disso, deverão pagar sete milhões de reais em indenização por danos morais individuais e coletivos. O descumprimento de cada cláusula é passível de punição com multa de até trezentos mil reais, cumulativas, a cada constatação.
Moreover, the wineries run a serious risk of being held jointly or severally liable for all labor obligations that are claimed in the Labor Court. Such liability is due to the non-compliance of the companies, in the capacity of service taker, with the duty to supervise the contracts of third parties.
Having said this, it is important to clarify that work analogous to slavery is characterized by the submission of someone to forced labor or to an exhausting workday, either by subjecting him/her to degrading work conditions, or by restricting his/her freedom of movement due to a debt to the employer or his/her representative, or with the purpose of keeping him/her in the workplace, according to article 149 of the Penal Code. The seizure of documents or personal objects from the worker, in order to keep him/her in the workplace, is also considered a condition analogous to slavery.
Besides the administrative and labor sanctions, the practice is also characterized as a crime, subject to imprisonment and fines, an attack on the fundamental human rights and dignity of the worker.
In 2022, the responsible bodies rescued 2,575 workers in conditions analogous to slave labor. Among them, 92% were men, 29% were between 30 and 39 years old, 51% lived in the Northeast region and other 58% were from this region, 83% declared themselves as black or brown-skinned, 15% as white, and 2% as indigenous. It was also observed that most of the rescues occurred in sugar cane cultivation, followed by agricultural support activities and charcoal production .
In the last six years, the Labour Justice System has judged more than ten thousand lawsuits on the subject, and the number of actions grew 41% between 2020 and 2021. In one of the judgements, the Superior Labour Court sentenced a former teacher and her daughters to the payment of one million reais for moral damages to a domestic worker who was subjected to degrading conditions, analogous to slavery, for 29 years. The work had begun when the rescued employee was only 7 years old, and the worker was deprived of any academic instruction or possibility of psychosocial development .
Besides the rescues that occurred in the South, other cases have gained more notoriety in the last few days, which shows the strong action of the Ministry of Labor and Employment and the Labor Public Ministry in carrying out inspections aimed at combating the practice.
In spite of the promulgation of the Áurea Law in 1888, when the extinction of slavery and the prohibition of worker exploitation were declared, causing the rupture of the condition of human labor as merchandise, slave labor is still very present in today's reality, as can be seen by the latest actions and rescues carried out by the responsible agencies.
It is society's duty to combat slave labor in order to guarantee the dignity of the human being and a minimum standard of civilization to each and every worker, eradicating any conduct that violates fundamental and labor rights.
Therefore, companies must pay attention to compliance with the legislation. Among the necessary measures, we highlight the obligations to prevent work-related accidents, to make sanitary facilities available in good conditions, to provide adequate breaks, to respect the legally established working hours, to offer drinking water, and to provide lodging and working conditions that respect the minimum level of civilization.
In this sense, the companies that act as service takers also have an essential role in the fight against slavery, and must adopt inspection measures regarding the outsourced services, in order to certify the compliance of the labor legislation by the outsourced company.
In addition, the implementation of a compliance and risk prevention, with the adoption of behaviors and policies that aim to mitigate risks and losses, preventing abusive practices by companies, as well as ensuring compliance with labor legislation, shows itself as an alternative in the fight against labor analogous to slavery, besides avoiding eventual liability for illegal conducts.
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