Haitians new victims of slave labor in Brazil
Elaine Patrícia Cruz reports from Agência Brasil
Edited by: Fábio Massalli / Nira Foster
Inspectors from the Brazilian Ministry of Labor have rescued 12 Haitian and two Bolivians workers from slavery-like conditions in northern São Paulo city. It was the first time Haitians were found under circumstances of this sort.
According to Inspector Elisabete Sasse, the immigrants were subjected to exhausting working hours—11 to 15 hours a day. The maximum permitted by Brazilian law is 8 hours, with a 2-hour break, or 7 hours, with one hour for resting.
Sasse described the lodgings as dirty, and further reported having seen scraps of food, poorly aired facilities, gas bottles placed randomly in the rooms, and moldy walls. “Electrical installations were precarious, and wiring was seen to be exposed,” she said.
Sasse further stated that from June 5 to August 5, when the workers were rescued, they had been paid a mere $43.90, on August 1 after the victims made a complaint. “On the first, [the immigrants] received this amount and halted their work, so the supervisor refused to give them food,” said the inspector. The low pay also goes against the Brazilian Constitution, which stipulates that every worker should earn as a salary at least the minimum wage ($317.85). The workshop has been shut down.
In a bid to prevent similar situations from taking place, Renato Bignami, coordinator of the Actions Against Slave Labor, which is connected with the ministry in São Paulo, said he received a list with 130 companies that have hired immigrants, and, using this as a starting point, he plans to guide them and monitor them for slave labor.
In an interview with Agência Brasil, Mirian Prado, one of the owners of As Marias, said she could never “have imagined” that the workshop she contracted for the company’s clothing production made use of slave labor. “I’m a small company; my production is small. My employees are all hired. I’d never imagined that. I was not aware,” she said.
The businesswoman said she is “completely against slave labor,” adding that she will now rent a place for her own production line. The Ministry of Labor confirmed that she paid all compensation due and handed out basic food baskets to the Haitian and Bolivian victims rescued.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira