Brazil's Temer to allow workers to tap severance fund in stimulus measure

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer plans to allow workers to make an early withdrawal from their severance fund, known as FGTS,

Brazil's President Michel Temer speaks during a ceremony for the release of resources for Technical Education and Promotion of Schools in Integral Time, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

a government official said on Wednesday, in the latest of several measures aimed at stoking an economy mired in recession.

The measure, which Temer will announce on Thursday, would allow workers to withdraw up to 1,000 reais from their FGTS funds, said the official who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to speak publicly.

Temer is also considering measures to ease regulation on temporary work and to make collective agreements between unions and companies prevail over labor legislation, a presidential aide said. However, those measures may not be ready to be announced on Thursday, he added.

Temer said earlier on Wednesday that he plans to announce changes to the country’s rigid labor laws in January.

“We are very close to launching the modernization of the labor code,” Temer told journalists after an event in Mogi das Cruzes, in the outskirts of São Paulo. “It will very likely happen in January, practically by common accord with unions and the business sector.”

Under current law, money can only be withdrawn from FGTS if a worker is fired, retires or uses that money to acquire property.

Last week, Temer launched a series of microeconomic reforms to reduce the debt burden of Brazilian consumers and companies struggling with a recession that threatens to stretch into a third year.

Temer is also seeking to make permanent the so-called Employment Protection Program, which was created during the current recession to create incentives for companies to avoid staff cuts.

Brazil’s labor code was designed in the 1940’s to protect workers from dismissals, but is often blamed by companies for the high cost of doing business in the country.

Reporting by Aluisio Alves, Silvio Cascione, Lisandra Paraguassu and Alonso Soto; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Phil Berlowitz