PSI files complaint with ILO against Brazil for pandemic working conditions

The report submitted to the ILO points out the violations of its conventions on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, on Tripartite Consultations to Promote the Application of International Labour Standards, on Promoting Collective Bargaining and on Workers' Health and Safety. Translated from the Portuguese, originally published at UOL, by Jamil Chad

The Brazilian government is the target of a report taken to the International Labour Organization (ILO) because of the precarious working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The document was presented this week to the ILO by a global union federation, Public Services International (PSI) representing 30 million members worldwide. The ILO is a body that brings together governments, employers and workers. In a report to the Committee of Experts on the Application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations, the global union denounces violations of international conventions by the Brazilian state.

The Committee of Experts, which examines information from member States and employers' and employees' organizations on ratified conventions, will meet in November and will review issues related to the pandemic in different countries.

Brazil is already being questioned at the UN Human Rights Council, cases have even been brought before the International Criminal Court, and now the matter is also before the ILO, increasing pressure on the government.

The report to the Committee of Experts points out violations by the Brazilian State of conventions C98, on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining; C144, on Tripartite Consultations to Promote the Application of International Labour Standards; C154, on Promotion of Collective Bargaining; and C155, on Safety and Health of Workers.

A focal point of the report is Provisional Measure No. 927, with emphasis on the article that provides that cases of contamination by the coronavirus would not be considered occupational, except upon proof of the causal link.

"The characterization of Covid-19 as an occupational or work disease is of fundamental importance for Brazilian workers. It guarantees Social Security benefits: the obtention of accidental illness aid and the guarantee of employment for 12 months, as well as enabling the worker to be compensated by the company in case of permanent injury or death resulting from the disease acquired in the work environment," states PSI in the document submitted to the ILO.

The International Labour Organization itself has also expressed its views on the characterization of Covid-19 as an occupational disease.

In another part of the document, the global union points to Joint Ordinance No. 20, of the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Health, with measures to be observed to prevent, control and mitigate the risks of transmission of Covid-19.

"Joint Ordinance No. 20 has some guidelines that go against rules established in state, district or municipal decrees, especially with regard to the distance of workers and risk groups. Here, it should be noted that the Brazilian government has not issued any general rule on the prevention of Covid-19," notes PSI. In the global union's assessment, the ordinance opens loopholes for workers from risk groups to have to work in person during the pandemic.

The document also cites a survey carried out by PSI in Brazil which was answered by more than 3,000 health and essential services workers. The survey identified that 63% do not have access to sufficient personal protective equipment, that 69% have not had specific training to deal with patients with Covid-19, and that 54% are in psychological distress because of current circumstances at work.

"As the ILO is aware, Brazil is currently going through a setback in labour relations and, consequently, social relations," states the report.

"The reality of those who work in the country is calamitous, unworthy and degrading", it points out. "Basic human rights are disrespected, violating scientific and international understanding. For all these reasons, we consider the acceptance of these observations by the Committee of Experts to be of extreme importance", he insists.

"Barring arbitrariness during the pandemic is imperative to prevent further deterioration of labour and social relations in Brazil and to drive forward the process of rebuilding rights and dignity for workers. We therefore request the analysis and positioning of this organization", adds PSI in the document.