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English Report

A serious problem related to the issue of slave labor is the concession of credits to landowners who benefit from this labor, especially in the Amazon region.  The implementation methods of modern day slavery are extremely cruel.  The slave is no longer considered “merchandise,” having no value with which its “owner” can negotiate in the “market.”  The slave is considered an object for immediate consumption and eventual disposal.

The national policy for the eradication of slave labor

* Marcelo Gonçalves Campos

 The Federal Government, through its Department of Labor and Employment (MTE) has, especially in the last three years, intensified its efforts to squelch any and all types of exploitation of slave labor.  This has been done through increasingly efficient interventions and continuous coordination in the work of the agencies that deal with prevention and investigation of slave labor.

 In the years 2002 and 2003 the Mobile Audit Task Force consisted of five audit teams.  In 2004 we worked with seven teams, in addition to the help we received from the regional units of the Department of Labor and Employment (DRT).  In 2003, approximately 150 new Labor Auditor positions were filled.  The new Auditors started their activities in May of 2004, concentrating mostly in areas where the practice of slave labor is more common.

 The year 2003 registered the biggest number of operations by the Mobile Audit Task Force since it began its activities in the second semester of 1995.  Accordingly, the number of liberated workers during the operations has exceeded expectations and is the highest since the Task Force’s inception.  See the chart below:


Number of Operations

Number of Liberated Workers

Number of Workplaces Audited













































 (*)Data as of July 2004 – source SIT/MTE

 In the Federal Government’s Multi-Annual Plan of Action (PPA 2000-2003), the MTE was responsible for coordinating the actions of the Program for the Eradication of Degrading or Slave Labor, which uses as an indicator the number of freed workers.  The investigations are conducted under the auspices of the MATF (Mobile Audit Task Force).  The operations are carried out in secret and count with the help of the Federal Police.  The goal of the operations is to remove the workers from where they are found and ensure that they are compensated according to labor laws. 

 The actions and operations of the Mobile Audit Task Force have brought attention to the problem of slave labor, attracting the interest of the media and other human rights organizations. 

 A serious problem related to the issue of slave labor is the concession of credits to landowners who benefit from this labor, especially in the Amazon region.  Many credit institutions (Banco do Brasil, BASA, ex-SUDAM) make resources available in the region. 

 In March of 2003, the National Plan for the Eradication of Slave Labor was launched, which, among its many measures, looks to approve a Constitutional Amendment that would call for the expropriation of lands on which slave workers are found.  The Project has already been approved by the Senate and in the first round of voting in the House of Representatives.  In addition, there is a bill in Congress proposing the creation of specific fines for exploiters of slave labor.

 Also in 2003 the National Committee for the Eradication of Slave Labor (CONATRAE) was created, organized by the National Secretary of Human Rights.  The CONATRAE follows the Executive Group for the Suppression of Slave Labor (GERTRAF), giving the State and society a more agile and effective tool for coordinating government policies directed towards the fight against slave labor.

 Finally, it must be emphasized that, starting in 2003, all workers freed from the conditions of slave labor are immediately enrolled for unemployment benefits.

 Today, the new slave masters are generally represented by large farmers in the North (Pará, Rondônia, Tocantins), Central West (Mato Grosso), and Northeast (Maranhão).  In general, workers are found in slave labor conditions in activities related to deforestation, especially in the Amazon.  However, slave labor can be found in other states and in a variety of activities: São Paulo (tomato production), Rio de Janeiro (sugar cane plantations), and Minas Gerais (coal production).

 Generally, the land owners who wish to cut down native forest to prepare grazing land for cattle, looking to evade their duties as employers towards those they are going to hire, employ intermediaries to carry out all tasks, including recruiting and controlling the workers.

 The methods of modern slavery are extremely cruel. The slave is no longer considered “merchandise,” having no value that can be negotiated in the “marketplace.”  The slave is an object for “immediate consumption” and eventual “disposal.” 

 When the Task Force finds slave labor, its immediate measures are:

1) verify the existence of any sick workers, children and/or teenagers, and whether there is the immediate need to remove the employees from the location.  Ideally, if there is a need to remove/free the employees, do so only after settling all fines and arranging for the return to their place of origin;

2) require employer to immediately pay all fines.  Return employees to place of origin (location where they were contracted);

3) record all employees who are in irregular situations and their Worker’s License signature, while providing such documents to those who do not have them, keeping in mind that pictures are necessary to issue registrations;

4) carrying out all steps necessary to provide unemployment benefits;

5) require land ownership documents from the employer;

6) require, if appropriate, the issuing of Notice of Accident in the Workplace – CAT.

 In general, audit operations last about 10 days and involve 5 Labor Auditors, 4 drivers, 6 Federal Policemen, 1 Labor Prosecutor and, eventually, 1 Federal Prosecutor and 1 representative of IBAMA (National Environmental Institute) and INCRA (National Institute for Agrarian Reform).  Each member of the group performs functions related to their specific field.  Labor Auditors are responsible for carrying out procedures related to identifying workers and suggesting which labor laws have not been followed, as well as collecting evidence of crimes.  The Federal Police carry out their judicial duties, as well as provide protection to the team.  Members of the Public Ministry of Labor and the Attorney General’s office carry out actions in their jurisdictions, labor and justice, respectively.  Finally, representatives of IBAMA and INCRA carry out initiatives in their specific fields.

 Overcoming the crime and stigma that is associated with slave labor is only possible with effective actions by all public institutions responsible for fighting crime, mobilizing civil society organizations, and by establishing a new model for land ownership, allowing land access to landless workers.

* Marcelo Gonçalves Campos is a Labor Auditor, Investigator for the Labor Inspection Secretary (Department of Labor and Employment) and coordinates the Mobil Audit Task Force.  He has degrees in History and Law from the Federal University of Minas Gerais.