By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BRASILIA, Brazil—On Monday, 88 more private firms were accused by the Brazilian government of engaging in slave labor, or forcing laborers to live and work in conditions equivalent to slavery. The Labor Ministry now lists 220 such firms on Brazil’s registry of worker exploitation.
The accused companies will be punished by steep fines and will be unable to obtain credit at public banks or sell their products to government entities. The firms will be blacklisted this way for at least two years until they demonstrate that they have brought their practices up to code.
Agricultural firms listed on the registry are believed to have forced workers to live and work in dangerous conditions, threatening their safety, hygiene and health. There have also been allegations that the agricultural workers have been made to work illegally long hours and receive less than adequate pay.
The majority of the workers who have been trapped in slave labor were recruited from the poorest areas of Brazil. After the laborers agreed to be relocated in promise of a job, they became imprisoned by employers who demanded money for food, rent, and previously unmentioned services. The workers become imprisoned in debt bondage and have little choice but to do as their employers order.
The recent influx in slave labor in Brazil is the most severe since records on the matter emerged in 2003. The 220 firms on the updated list include plantations, sugar mills, coal yards, timber businesses, construction companies and textile factories.
The government blacklist is updated every six months and 14 firms were recently dropped because they improved their operations to meet government standards.
Last year, a government task force rescued almost 5,000 slave laborers after conducting 133 raids on suspected farms in Brazil. According to the United Nations International Labor Organization, there are roughly 12.3 million workers suffering from similar situations throughout the world.
For more information, please see:
EIN News-Brazil Cracks Down on Farm Slave Labor; 88 Firms Accused-5 January 2011
Sify News-Over 200 Brazil firms found treating workers as slaves-5 January 2011
Fox News-Brazil accuses 220 firms of using slave labor-4 January 2011