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Brazil: collective agreements in response to Covid-19

4 May, 2020In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, unions in Brazil have negotiated agreements that set out alternative solutions protecting workers' lives and rights.

Brazil's Department of Socioeconomic Statistics and Studies has published a report mapping solutions proposed by unions in the collective bargaining process to protect workers' health and minimize the pandemic’s impact on jobs and wages.

Unions from various sectors have managed to get companies to put in place health and safety measures to fight the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace and immediately allow at-risk workers to stay off site. The agreements also provide compulsory paid leave and temporary job security, keep economic benefits in place, and require any measures taken by companies to be approved by workers through a vote or a union assessment.

The study showed that many agreements were negotiated through virtual assemblies, allowing members to debate and vote on proposals remotely.

At a recent virtual assembly held by the SMABC union, part of the national confederation of metal workers (CNM-CUT), members voted in favour of an agreement with Mercedes-Benz in São Bernardo. The agreement guarantees that workers will be paid between 80-100 per cent over two months and secured the jobs of all 8,400 workers until 31 December.

In the metal sector, agreements have been reached with most carmakers, including JEEP, Renault, Nissan, Toyota, Scania, GM, Volkswagen and Peugeot. Under these agreements, production will be halted for four weeks, employment contracts will be suspended for 30 days with full pay, employees will be able to work remotely, and other rules were established.

A number of agreements were also successfully negotiated in the chemicals sector. Fequimfar negotiated a collective agreement covering 150,000 workers at more than 4,700 firms in all areas of the chemicals sector in São Paulo.

Other chemicals unions have managed to negotiate accumulated overtime, increased shift lengths to avoid crowded production lines, social distancing in cafeterias, and other measures to limit the number of workers on site.

However, the report said that Brazil's government and companies are trying to resists these measures, attempting to undermine and eliminate rights set out in labour law and collective agreements. The government is allowing companies to reduce employees' work time and wages, and to suspend their contracts.

IndustriALL's deputy general secretary, Kemal Özkan, says:

"We congratulate IndustriALL's affiliates in Brazil. The agreements offer a satisfactory solution for the vast majority of workers. We hope that similarly robust agreements will be reached with other companies to safeguard the health, jobs and wages of our factory workers."