Brazil

Capital: Brasilia
Population: 206.07m. (2014 est.)

Brazil ratified ILO Convention No.98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 1952, but has not ratified Convention No.87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948).

The corporatist-era industrial relations framework, which dates back to the 1940s, was restrictive, historically limiting the right to strike, and permitting only one union to organise each occupational category in a any given geographical area, but within these limitations it provided a stable platform for the Brazilian trade unions, mandating the payment of dues by all workers covered by union bargaining. New legal reforms introduced in 2017 have swept away some of the benefits of the old corporatist system, but have left the occupational / regional organising restrictions and significant strike restrictions in place. Aspects of the reforms that have concerned unions are the changes to dues collections, which have left unions grappling with the 'free-rider' problem (of workers who benefit from collective bargaining representation but don't pay union dues), and the movement away from sectoral to workplace bargaining, seen as weakening union strength, and new laws that will allow local collective bargaining to undercut protections in national labour law.

Repression of strikes, and harassment of especially rural organisers is a recurring problem. Hundreds of landless rural workers and activists of the landless peasants’ movement, the MST, have been killed during land disputes. Forced labour and debt bondage still persist in certain regions of Brazil. In 2016 a local road transport workers’ leader was shot dead, and other members of the union reported threats by so-called ‘para-police’. Unions are also profoundly concerned by the legal harassment of Brazil's former President 'Lula', who was previously a trade union leader, now in prison, and described by the ITUC as a political prisoner. The campaign in defence of Lula (Comite Lula Livre) has support across the trade union movement and is backed by the largest Brazilian affiliates of both the ITUC and WFTU.

The largest union centre by some margin is the ITUC affiliated Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT, English: Unitary Workers’ Centre). ITUC also affiliates the União Geral dos Trabalhadores Brasil (UGT, English: General Union of Workers), the Nova Central Sindical dos Trabalhadores (NCST, English: New Central Union of Workers), and the smaller Confederacao Nacional das Profissões Liberais (CNPL, English: National Confederation of Liberal Professions). The 1 million member Central dos Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras do Brasil (CTB, English: Confederation of Workers of Brazil) and the smaller Central Geral dos Trabalhadores do Brasil (CGTB, English: Brazilian Workers’ General Confederation) are WFTU affiliates. There are a also a number of other national level trade union centres, the largest of which, by some margin, is the Força Sindical (FS) (Trade Union Force), which was disaffiliated from the ITUC after joining a new regional centre, la Alternativa Democrática Sindical de las Américas (ADS, English: Democratic Alternative Union for the Americas).

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Brazil, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to reportIUR journal: 'The fallout from the 2017 labour reform in Brazil for the trade union movement', by Afonso de Paula
Pinheiro Rocha and Ana Virginia Moreira Gomes (2017)

The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

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union rights through research and advocacy services.
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