Brazilian meat and poultry workers defeat government attempt to cut safety standards!

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Mass demonstration of workers and youth against President Bolsonaro

AN IUF global union statement last Friday reminded that a determined campaign by IUF affiliates and allies has beaten back a government attempt to remove a hard won health and safety protection for meat and poultry processing workers in Brazil.

As in many other countries, meat and poultry plants in Brazil have become viral hotspots for mass infection.
At a time of critical danger for meat and poultry workers, the industry and their political supporters proposed to reduce worker protection by amending Provision 927 of NR36, a key provision in national legislation which mandates a 20-minute break for every 1 hour and forty minutes of work.
NR36, which sets health and safety standards for the sector including major ergonomic advances, was established in law in 2013 following 15 years of campaigning by IUF affiliates CNTA and Contac, with support from IUF affiliates worldwide.
A proposed amendment in the Chamber of Deputies would have restricted the break to apply to only 5% of the workers currently protected!
Unions fought back with a campaign to preserve the breaks which received wide support from union and civil society allies and was energetically promoted by the IUF Latin American regional secretariat.
On May 9, the proposal to amend NR36 was defeated. IUF Latin America Regional Secretary Gerardo Iglesias hailed the successful outcome of the struggle but urged vigilance in the ongoing fight for decent work in the sector.

  • The Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF) on Monday received a request from Senator Randolfe Rodrigues for a temporary or preventive detention of Education Minister Abraham Weintraub, for being a threat to democracy.

The senator also requested, in a document sent to Minister Alexandre de Moraes, of the STF, that Weintraub is immediately removed from his post and his mobile phones and computers are searched and confiscated.
Without a protective facemask, Weintrub participated in a rally on Sunday with an extremist group of supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro at the Esplanade of the Ministries, in central Brasilia.
During a ministerial meeting held on April 22 and made public by order of the STF, as part of the investigations into Bolsonaro’s political interference in the Federal Police, Weintraub shouted: ‘For my part, I would put all these bums in jail. Starting with the STF.’
Weintraub is also facing an investigation for alleged racism crimes. In early April, without evidence, he posted a message on social media blaming China’s alleged responsibility for the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, causing the Covid-19 disease.
The official published a character from a popular Brazilian comic strip in which he substituted the letter ‘R’ with capital ‘L’, to mock the Chinese accent.
‘These statements are completely absurd and despicable, calling it highly racist with negative consequences for the healthy development of bilateral relations,’ the Chinese Embassy in Brazil denounced in a note.
Brazil has so far reported 850,514 Covid-19 cases with 42,720 deaths, the country’s health ministry announced last Saturday.
In 24 hours, Brazil registered 892 new deaths from the virus with 21,704 new cases, according to the health ministry.
Sao Paulo, the epicentre of the virus in Brazil and the country’s most populous state, has registered 172,875 cases and 10,581 deaths, followed by Rio de Janeiro with 78,836 cases and 7,592 deaths, and Ceara with 76,429 cases and 4,829 deaths.
To track the spread of the pandemic in the country, the ministry on Friday launched a new platform, which displays the number of recoveries as well as those being monitored, in addition to charts showing the number of daily deaths from the disease and the number of deaths per 100,000 people – factors that help determine the degree of contagion.
Brazil, with the second-highest number of cases in the world after the United States, surpassed Britain to have the second-highest death toll in the world last Friday.
• ‘We are facing a double pandemic,’ in this way, the Brazilian unions last Friday described their current situation when facing the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and the problematic management of the government of President Jair Bolsonaro.
In a virtual session ‘Hello, how are you?’, organised by the ICM (International Construction and Timber Workers), 27 union leaders, representing different unions affiliated to ICM in Brazil, met through the Internet to share their experiences and difficulties in facing the Covid-19 crisis.
Saúl Méndez, President of the ICM Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean and Secretary General of SUNTRACS – Panama, led the online conversations.
Trade unionists focussed on the failure of Bolsonaro’s authoritarian government to contain Covid-19 and his administration’s attempt to hide from the public the true magnitude of the crisis.
‘We are facing a double pandemic. On the one hand, the Covid-19 pandemic and its negative effects on the health, safety and employment of workers; and on the other hand, the neoliberal policies promoted by Bolsonaro,’ said Claudio da Silva Gomes, President of CONTICOM-CUT.
In response, trade unionists highlighted the need for innovative activism, unity, the creation of new protocols on health and safety at work (OSH), social dialogue and collective bargaining to protect workers from threats of dismissal, the reduction of wages and benefits.
Participants also shared the various initiatives of their unions to protect their members from the health crisis.
Some of these efforts are their respective Covid-19 awareness and prevention campaigns, safe transport of workers, handwashing centres, negotiations with local governments and union cyber-activism.
In addition to the unionists, Waldeli Melleiro, from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES-Brazil), attended the event as a special guest.
In turn, Méndez took the opportunity to warmly welcome Adalberto Galvão from SINTEPAV-BA, who fully recovered after being hospitalised a month ago due to Covid-1.

  • It only gets worse: Money is missing to pay the second instalment of the R $600 aid, says the CUT (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores)

A CUT statement last Sunday said that the initial forecast was to pay the second instalment on April 27, 28, 29 and 30, but two weeks later the government had not released a timetable.
For days the government has been working to publicise the payment schedule for the second instalment of R$600 Emergency Aid for informal workers, approved by the National Congress after much pressure from the CUT, other centrals and parliamentarians from the opposition to the Jair Bolsonaro government, who just wanted to pay R$200.
In May, a Folha de S Paulo report said that one of the reasons for the delay is the lack of cash.
The aid aims to help the survival of individual microentrepreneurs (MEIs), self-employed and intermittent workers without a fixed job, over 18 years of age and who are not receiving social security benefits or unemployment insurance.
In addition, the claimant can only receive assistance if they have a monthly per capita income of up to half a minimum wage (R$522.50) or a total monthly family income of up to three minimum wages (R$3,135).
The person also may not have received taxable income above R$28,559.70 in 2018.
In early April, the government had informed that the second instalment would be passed on to these thousands of Brazilians without income, without savings and without prospects on the 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th of the same month, but the timetable has not yet been released.
Sources heard by Folha affirm that the release of the second instalment of the benefit could make banking system operations unfeasible because of the scarcity of currency.
For this reason, the Central Bank, says the newspaper, asked the Casa da Moeda to anticipate the production of the corresponding R$9billion in banknotes and coins by the end of May.
In a note sent to the newspaper, the Central Bank informed that there is hoarding – when money is left in the hands of people – because of withdrawals to form financial reserves, a decrease in the volume of purchases in commerce and because a considerable portion of the amounts paid in kind aid recipients have not returned to the economy yet.
Also according to the newspaper, the week beginning May 11 Caixa should receive information from a lot of registered people who were still waiting for a response about the benefit or appeared in the system as inconclusive, but that for this group there is enough currency.
The problem is the second instalment. And who sets the payment dates is the Minister of Citizenship, Onyx Lorenzoni and Bolsonaro.