Three workers lost their lives and one was injured after an explosion at Gerdau’s plant in Ouro Branco, Brazil, on 14 November.
The three workers, members of IndustriALL affiliate CNTM/FS and employed by a subcontractor, were carrying out maintenance work when the explosion happened.
Subcontractors employ around 27 per cent of all workers in Brazil. According to a report by IndustriALL affiliate CUT, compared to directly employed workers, a higher proportion of subcontracted workers suffer fatalities and occupational diseases. The report says that the frequency of accidents among subcontracted workers is double; 5.95 per cent compared to that of directly employed workers, 2.65 per cent.
Several IndustriALL affiliates in Brazil have been campaigning for years to prevent approval of a bill (PEC 55) that is under consideration in the Senate. If passed, the bill would allow private sector employers to subcontract work as they see fit. Strikes are planned on 25 November protesting against PEC 55 and other reforms.
Often, precarious workers cannot be represented by the same trade union as permanent workers. But unions at Gerdau in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the US, Peru and Uruguay do their best to protect these workers, and are fighting the company’s anti-trade union strategy, defending workers’ rights, seeking recognition of the works council, and want to negotiate a global agreement on health and safety.
Jorge Almeida, IndustriALL’s regional secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, said:
Brazil ratified ILO Convention 155 on health and safety in 1995. In 2005, the ILO made a series of recommendations on health and safety in the iron and steel industry, setting out the responsibilities, duties and rights of the respective parties.
IndustriALL urges Gerdau to comply with Brazilian and international labour legislation, which states that workers have the right to health and safety at the workplace.
The Brazilian company published a statement after the accident, offering assistance to the families of victims and said that it is investigating the cause of the accident.