TNCs borrow from international financial institutions, supposedly for development purposes. However, the reality is different. They acquire philanthropic and public service organisations and proclaim their commitment to technological innovation, job creation and improved service access and quality. However, they fail to live up to these promises and avoid dealing with the trade unions.
By accessing loans classified as “investments for development”, these companies are required to comply with labour legislation and engage in collective bargaining with trade unions. However, there is a lack of accountability because national authorities and international financial institutions do not monitor compliance with these obligations.
The situation has become more problematic because of the parliamentary, legal and media coup that recently ushered in a new era of neoliberal promotion of private foreign investment in Brazil, and labour reforms that cut workers’ rights and create doubt and uncertainty. The result has been a stream of legal disputes over labour law, especially in the health sector, on issues such as length of working day – increased to a maximum of 12 hours with 36 hours rest – (for which it is uncertain if collective agreements are valid or not), massive reductions in staffing levels, unfair dismissals for minor reasons, failure to pay bonuses for hazardous work (as required by Brazilian legislation on the health sector), etc.
In this context, training, trade union campaigns and action by workers are all crucial for bringing pressure to bear on companies and raising public awareness about the threat posed by projects funded with these loans and their impact on labour, society and the environment.
In order to make progress in this struggle, we are monitoring information and using new specialised partners, such as the Centro de Monitoramento de Empresas e Direitos Humanos and the International Accountability Project (IAP) to help us scrutinise these loans and to use collective bargaining or complaints to international organisations (ILO, Inter-American Court, OECD, IDB, IFT) to promote more appropriate lending.
Health cannot be treated as a mere commodity to be exploited. Health is a public good and not a product. Onwards with the struggle!