BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s top labor prosecutor said President Michel Temer’s proposals to modernize the country’s labor laws were illegal in a report published on Tuesday that provided ammunition to workers’ unions fighting the reforms.
Updating outdated labor laws to allow outsourcing and more flexibility in contracts and work hours is part of Temer’s plan to reduce business costs and pull Brazil from its worst recession on record. But his proposal has come under fire even before it was discussed in Congress.
“In times of crisis, workers need more protection not less,” Prosecutor-General for Labor Ronaldo Fleury, whose office in responsible for chasing labor law violations from slavery to child labor, said at a news conference.
Fleury said the government’s proposal to do away with the eight-hour workday limit to allow more temporary employment and two other proposals already in Congress to expand outsourcing and allow workers to be paid per hour worked were unconstitutional and broke international labor conventions.
The bill sent by Temer to Congress would double the limit on temporary work contracts from three to six months. It would also allow longer workdays though keep the 44-hour week.
Presenting his report to labor leaders, Fleury said this would mean lower salaries, less benefits and precarious work conditions, and he rejected the government’s claim it would create more jobs and reduce Brazil’s record 12 percent unemployment.
Temer is struggling to restore fiscal discipline and revive Latin America’s largest economy, and his unpopular belt-tightening measure face increasing resistance. Congress enacted a public spending ceiling in December, but lawmakers are expected to water down a key bill to reform the costly pensions system, main contributor to a growing fiscal deficit.
Brazil’s biggest labor confederation with 7.4 million union workers, the CUT, said it plans to start nationwide protests against the pension and labor law reforms once Brazil gets back from its summer holidays and Carnival, kicking off with a national teachers strike on March 15.
“These proposals will take us back to the time of the industrial revolution when the working class was fighting to reduce 12- or 14-hour workdays,” said the CUT’s national labor secretary Maria das Graças Costa.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman