Human rights minister stands against slave‑like work in South Brazil

Silvio Almeida is attending a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council

Published on 27/02/2023 - 16:51 By Agência Brasil* - Brasília

Brazil’s Minister of Human Rights and Citizenship Silvio Almeida on Monday (Feb. 27) talked about the importance of a national human rights policy while commenting on the reports of slavery-like working conditions in wineries in South Brazil.

In Geneva, where he is taking part in the 52nd session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the minister also said he has called an extraordinary meeting with the National Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labor (Conatrae) to spearhead “actions that may require investigation in the criminal and labor spheres.”

An administrative inquiry is in place, the minister said, adding that those rescued are receiving support from the government. “I have also ordered Human Rights National Secretary Isadora Brandão to draw up a diagnosis on the state of the national policy for the eradication of slave labor in Brazil, as the case is certainly not an isolated one, as know how labor relations operate in our country.”

Most of the 207 rescued at the Aurora and Salton wineries and at the Garibaldi cooperative come from Bahia state, in Northeast Brazil.

Labor prosecutors in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul reported that the victims have already received part of their severance pay and have returned to their home state, with the exception of 12 of them.

The case

Last Wednesday (Feb. 22), a joint action coordinated by the country’s Ministry of Labor rescued 207 workers who faced degrading working conditions in Bento Gonçalves, in Serra Gaúcha, Brazil’s largest wine region.

Three of the people who managed to flee contacted the Federal Highway Police and filed a complaint. The laborers, who were attracted by the promise of a salary of R$3,000, reported facing delays in wage payments, physical violence, long working hours and the offer of rotten food. They also reported that, since they arrived at the beginning of the month, they were coerced to remain in place under penalty of paying a fine for breach of the employment contract.

In a note, the wineries said they were unaware of the irregularities against the individuals recruited by service provider Oliveira & Santana.

*With information from Radioagência Nacional

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Denise Griesinger

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