argument in favor of the current labor reforms in Brazil is
that flexibility allows businesses to adapt to the realities
of the market, gain competitiveness, generate economic growth,
and therefore increase the creation of jobs. According to
recent International Labor Organization (ILO) publications,
these types of reforms have not contributed to the generation
of employment. They have contributed to the deterioration of
the quality of remaining jobs.
Policies and Human Rights
principal objective of the labor reforms that are currently in
process in Brazil is to withdraw rights that have been
hard-fought and earned by the working class throughout our
The current government speaks of the necessity of
carrying out reforms or at least continuing reforms that are
already in process. We should point out the consequences that
these labor and social-security reforms can bring to workers.
mail goal of these reforms is to create more “flexibility”
in labor laws, which means to eliminate protective norms and
workers rights. In 2005, the Lula government advanced a
proposal to the National Congress to make labor laws more
flexible. Therefore, workers’ laws would not be revoked, but
they would become “negotiable.”
neoliberal recipe calls for individualization in labor
This would be necessary for businesses to have
flexibility towards seeking to be competitive in occupying the
market and diminishing the so-called “cost of labor”.
This is the logic of all the labor reforms in process
throughout the world.
such, these reforms intend to separate custody of the State
from individual labor relations, to make them more flexible.
This is so that “negotiation” prevails over
legislation. The fundamental characteristic of these reforms
is the effort to separate the State from the individual labor
relations on one side, eliminating and/or making flexible the
rights of workers guaranteed by law, and on the other hand to
intensify the interference of the State in collective labor
relations, always in the sense of restricting the collective
actions of the workers.
this to occur it is necessary to alter the legislation that
regulates the system of union representation and negotiation/collective
This occurs for two motives: to make the flexibility of
workers’ rights possible through collective negotiation with
central unions, and to allow the State and the central union
leadership to control the structure of representation of the
reasons to defend these reforms are false, in that they do not
correspond to the reality.
Some examples are:
is necessary because in Brazil the cost of labor is very high,
which impedes competition of business.”
Nonetheless, according to economist Marcio Pochmann in
his book Labor at the
Crossroads, “contrary to various studies, the cost of
labor for businesses is not expensive, above all compared to
Another common argument is that the cost of workers’
benefits are high, in comparison with the effective salary,
and that if these costs could be reduced this would translate
into higher salaries.
In relation to this idea, there are international
criteria established by the ILO – International Labor
Organization, which protect workers’ rights.
Another argument is that flexibility allows businesses
to adapt to the realities of the market, gain competitiveness,
generate economic growth, and therefore increase the creation
According to recent ILO publications, these types of
reforms have not contributed to the generation of employment.
They have contributed to the deterioration of the quality of
fundamental question that affects the working class is the
continuity of the Social Security Reform. According to the
government, these reforms are necessary due to the increase in
life expectancy of the population.
the electoral campaign, President Lula declared that he did
not intend to propose changes in social security policies. But
the following measures have been discussed:
An end to retirement according to time of contribution;
it would change to only include retirement according to age.
An end to special retirement for professors, who today
are able to retire with five years less contribution (25 years
for women, 30 for men).
Discussion in respect to changing rural retirements
according to age, which will be 55 years for women and 60
years for men. The idea would be to reduce this
“privilege” in relation to urban workers.
is necessary for the working class to have a real
understanding of these reforms. The workers need to organize
in order to stop such proposals, which can eliminate labor
Paulo César Pedrini is an
historian, director of Apeoesp (Union of Professors of the
State Public Schools of São Paulo) and coordinator of the
Metropolitan Workers’ Pastoral of São Paulo.