Brazilian labour rights have been brought into sharp focus once again by the 2014 World Cup. The Brazilian construction industry has been the most obvious player demonstrating the problematic nature of employer-employee relations.
Naturally, there has been extensive growth and demand within the Brazilian infrastructure sector in the run up to the World Cup with construction now representing over 16% of Brazil’s GDP. This will continue apace with the future arrival of the Olympics. The construction industry’s human rights record remains under scrutiny despite a new model of regulation for the sector being agreed by social and government partners in 2012 following widespread protests and violent demonstrations in 2011. While Brazil’s labour laws are generally considered to be tough, health and safety regulations within the construction industry are often flexible, giving rise to industrial unrest in this sector.
In relation to equality issues, this month we have also seen an extension of Brazilian anti-discrimination policies with the introduction of Law 12.984. This legislation criminalises discrimination on the basis of an individual’s HIV/AIDS status. In the context of the workplace, the law prevents employers from using discriminatory practices in hiring or dismissing workers in relation to their HIV/AIDS status. Additionally, under this new policy, employees with HIV/AIDS must not be segregated within the workplace or forced to disclose their medical condition for the sole purpose of offending their individual dignity. Multinationals operating in this jurisdiction should be aware and ensure that staff receive training on such issues. Equal opportunities policies should also be reviewed to ensure compliance.
This step in the direction towards greater social justice for Brazilian workers seems entirely overshadowed by the large scale favela protests which have concentrated heavily on Brazil’s extensive social inequality. Human rights organisations in the country have also raised concerns over the wider human cost of the global sporting event; namely, the livelihood of street vendors, the displacement of over 250,000 people and child prostitution. Protest groups and trade unions are likely to be very active over the next year or so.
Other blogs of interest in our BRICs series
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