Labor and social security “reforms” – absolute priorities



The slave-colonial-capitalist alliance, to boost its economic agenda, destroyed what was left of democracy in Brazil

Jacob Gorender begins his famous work, Brazil in black & white, drawing the reader’s attention to the size of Brazil’s territorial extension, also highlighting that the Spanish colonization in the American continent resulted in 18 independent countries, while the Portuguese colonization, in the same continent, only a single State remained, Brazil. And, he asks: “Where does this characteristic of our country come from?”

The answer he himself proposes is: “What, fundamentally, allowed the central power to triumph over fragmenting tendencies and maintain the unity of the national territory was the existence of a dominant class nationally coordinated by the common interest of defending the institution of slavery” . The fact is that the possibility of exploiting slave labor was the point of balance between the various fractions of the national ruling class and between them and the colonial and imperial State.

Centuries have passed and when faced with the news of recent weeks regarding the tensions between the central power and the national ruling class, the reference to Gorender's questioning and conclusion is inevitable.

The current social, political and economic scenario in Brazil presents an explicit conflict between the ideologically diverse fractions of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, but this conflict does not generate any kind of rupture, since what ends up prevailing is the delimiting pact of “aggressions” that keeps things , in essence, exactly as they are – and that has been the case for a long time, it should be noted.

It is necessary, then, to ask: Where does institutional stability originate in a country whose bourgeois ruling class is made up, predominantly, of liberals, self-styled democratic (some of them even considered to be on the “left”, defenders of Human Rights), conservatives and fascists, and these clash publicly?

The answer, which even serves to demonstrate that slavery was not effectively overcome among us, since this apparently strange unification has color, goes along the same lines as that presented by Gorender, namely: what, fundamentally, allows stability one of the conflicting (apparently) relations of the national bourgeois fractions is the possibility of maintaining the exploitation of labor at ever more intense levels of dispossession and, with that, providing the ruling class as a whole (even if it is less and less numerous) accumulated wealth, private property, political power and social comfort.

For everyone else, members of the majority working class, what is reserved is scarcity, submission, oppression, suffering and empty hope in a better future that never comes, when not, complete exclusion watered down by hunger and misery. extreme. And those most directly affected are still used as a motto for the ideological argument, supporting the system, that those who are not totally excluded and who find themselves in an exploitative relationship, even without any parameter of citizenship and access to fundamental rights, they are privileged beings. These, as Ricardo Antunes warns, in the view of the national ruling class, are those who boast the “privilege of servitude”.

For someone to consider this proposition exaggerated, one would have to have lived completely removed from the Brazilian reality, be largely dominated by alienation, be included in the list of those who directly benefit from all this (which can include those who keep the illusion that they are either a one day they will be part of this limited group), or even intend some economic or personal reward with the intellectual diffusion of the distortions and revisionism that serve the bourgeois class, in its project of domination, exploitation and preservation of privileges.

Let us remember what happened recently with the labor “reform”.

The “reform”, which was effectively nothing of a reform, since it only meant the insertion by forceps, in the labor legislation, of norms that only reflected the immediate and selfish interests of large economic conglomerates, was only possible by promoting an institutional break, by which a democratically elected President abruptly withdrew from the government because she did not demonstrate the political strength to carry out the social dismantling required by economic power, considered by it to be necessary, in the context of an economic crisis, to maintain its margins of profit (although this was pronounced in the form of a demand from the “economy”).

The objective of the institutional coup was to replace the leadership of the central political power, handing it over to a ruler who did not have any electoral commitment and with respect to whom no claim was made in terms of re-election either, given his personal condition of subjugation. due to the numerous denunciations that he was the target of in the context of Lava Jato. This actor could (and should) do the “dirty job” of carrying out, through the suppression of constitutional guarantees, the “reforms” required by the dominant segments of national and international economic power, and he did so under the constant surveillance of the mainstream press and with the invaluable support of parliamentarians (many of them also stunned by the Lava Jato threats) and even members of the Judiciary. It is worth remembering that the character in question presented himself for the service when he published, still as a member of the government, his party's project, “Bridge to the Future”, in which labor and social security “reforms” appeared as absolute priorities.

What resulted from the coup – and which constituted its motivation – was, as everyone knows, the carrying out of the labor “reform”, enshrined in the publication of Law n. 13.467/17.

But it is equally well known that the legislative process of Law n. 13.467/17, from its elaboration to its approval, was completely irregular, after all, it was necessary to hurry, since even Temer’s illegitimate government had an expiration date (a little over 2 years) and there was, at that moment, no security as to what could happen in the 2018 elections (although the other part of the coup, which was Lula’s political arrest, was already being properly addressed, in order to prevent his participation in the elections). Not that, historically, Lula's governments had not, in their own way, been part of the alliance that kept the exploitation of labor at a level below the 1988 constitutional pact, but the election of the PT would represent a certain risk to the continuity of the new level of relegation established by Law n. 13.467/17, since in relation to the specific event of the labor “reform”, the party remained openly and explicitly in opposition.

The fact is that the various assaults on formal democratic regularity and the trampling of constitutional guarantees, including within the scope of Criminal Law, which led to the labor “reform” and the succession of the Temer government were carried out in the open under many threatening charges, the encouragement and effusive applause from the mainstream press, business and financial representations, Parliament, liberal economists, conservatives, fascists and the Federal Supreme Court itself (as it ended up assuming, recently, in the judgment of the Habeas Corpus of former President Lula).

It is worth noting that the rupture with the still incipient and embryonic process of building a democratic order in the country – bearing in mind that we never actually had a democracy that actually served the interests of the majority of the Brazilian population – also relied on the silence of certain “progressives” and the indifference or even the support of a few so-called “revolutionaries”, because the possibility of reducing the costs of labor exploitation, imposing greater suffering on certain bodies, especially black men and women, making access to justice unfeasible for male and female workers, dismantling and disconfiguring the Labor Court are factors that, in Brazil, given its slavery heritage, unify or run away from the concerns placed in the foreground.

With the election of a government committed to the neoliberal agenda, the alliances around the process of destruction of social rights remain in force. In this sense, it is possible to verify that when the intended effects (although not publicly admitted) of the labor “reform” were produced, namely, increase in unemployment, reduction of wages, bankruptcy of unions, loss of rights conquered in collective negotiations, denial of access to justice for male and female workers, an increase in precarious forms of hiring (outsourcing, intermittent work), the progression of informality, the spread of suffering and misery, alliances turned to the activity of maintaining the validity and concrete incidence of the terms notoriously unconstitutional aspects of the “reform”, notably with regard to the prohibition of the right to access to justice, assuming a relevant role in this respect by the Labor Judiciary itself, in all its instances, and, above all, the Federal Supreme Court.

The connivance around the retreat and discarding of constitutional guarantees, based on the pact around the greater extraction of value from the workforce, however, widened the possibilities of the political domain, excluding, of course, any alternative of the center-left, to avoid the risk of a setback in the “conquest” achieved, as well as to keep open the window of opportunities around new attacks on social rights, after all, the social security “reform” agenda was still unfinished.

It was in this way, from within this alliance, that the rise of right-wing radicalism was promoted, which ended up winning the 2018 elections. stated, at the time, some vehicles of the great press, to shade the ongoing process (see, by the way, article in Isto É magazine, of 31/10/18, with the title: “And the PT created Bolsonaro”).

And what was underway was the establishment of an alliance between economic power and an admittedly extreme right-wing government, which signed a commitment to maintain and even advance the economic agenda, so much so that one of its main members, in the Ministry of Economy, he is an authentic representative of the interests of big capital, with a “status”, including, of “immovable”.

It so happens that this government, given its ideological configuration, is very unwilling not to invade all other spheres of constitutional guarantees to promote its conservative agenda, taking advantage of the situation of scorched earth, in terms of regularity. democracy and stability of institutions, which he received as a legacy of the historical process that made his electoral victory possible.

In other words, more briefly, the slave-colonial-capitalist alliance, in order to boost its economic agenda, destroyed what was left of democracy and constitutional and institutional normativity in Brazil and, in order to maintain and even expand this same agenda, conceived the possibility of political power being handed over to right-wing radicalism.

What we have as a result is an alliance that runs on a razor's edge, as those who have been conferred with such power are fully aware of the historical process that was opened and, with this, they are touching the conservative agenda with great strides, with shock growing democratic foundations and constitutional guarantees, so much so that they once flirted with coup d'état, today they publicly announce the coup.

On the other hand, part of the economic sector and some fractions of the ruling class, notably the so-called liberals, are uncomfortable with this, but it is not possible to exempt them from blame, not least because they already knew, from the beginning, the problem they were creating , as revealed in the article published by the magazine Veja, of 31/10/18, shortly after Bolsonaro’s election, with the title “In case of emergency, break the glass”, whose content expressed the warning that it would be up to the institutions and, notably, the STF, to use the Constitution to combat the threats to democracy that could come from the new government.

The point is that the government is fully aware of the situation and, with this, dictating the rules of the game, has even managed to maintain the stability of the alliance through successive concessions (always accompanied by new promises) to economic power, at the same time time that deepens the democratic shocks, increases the weakening of institutions and massacres the Constitution. It should be remembered that the alliance in question already started bearing the fruit of the social security “reform” and soon what was to come was announced: administrative reform; tax reform; elimination of environmental constraints; privatizations etc. Concretely, in parallel with the neoliberal and anti-nationalist economic agenda, the authoritarian trajectory has intensified.

Seen the situation from another angle, what can be said is that authoritarianism has been cradled by the pact to increase the exploitation of labor, which has materialized through the destruction of the constitutional guarantees historically conquered by the working class. Thus, the advance of authoritarianism takes place with the compromising connivance of those who, publicly, place themselves as opponents of the government and in defense of democracy and the Constitution.

The fact is that the fractions of the ruling class, which are grateful to the government for the measures to reduce social rights, do not care a bit about the fact that, in order to achieve this objective, democracy and the Constitution are even more attacked, because, for them, the members of the working class, targets of the withdrawal of rights, exist only to serve them, not being, therefore, embraced by the concept of citizenship; they are merely his “tools” for extracting profits.

Incidentally, the biggest suspicion is that the pressure they publicly exert on the government, in so-called defense of democracy and the constitutional order, is exclusively intended to extract from the government even more commitments regarding the retraction of social rights, so much so that the concrete initiatives of political confrontation with the government never go forward and even retreat at every nod.

It was thus, for example, that even in the face of the denialist stance of the federal government, which led to the worsening of the pandemic in Brazil, governance was not shaken and this, above all, due to the allocation of more than 5 billion reais from the public fund to the private productive sector, through the payment of unemployment insurance to workers whose employment contracts were suspended or had wages reduced by up to 70% during the pandemic (as provided for in MP 936). All of this without demanding any compensation from the beneficiary companies in terms of job preservation or proof of economic need. It should be noted that for small and medium-sized companies, which are the ones that employ the most and which had to completely interrupt their activities in the pandemic, the possibilities of suspending the employment contract and, above all, of reducing wages by reducing working hours, very little or represented nothing, in terms of effectively safeguarding its businesses and preserving its financial stability.

What was needed was for the government to maintain jobs, regardless of work, subsidizing small companies (large employers) by issuing currency, and prohibiting large companies from laying off workers, maintaining full payment of wages, even without work, as a duty of social function resulting from historically obtained profits and tax incentives, along the lines of what other countries did in the same period.

In practice, the policy adopted by the Brazilian government represented a billionaire public investment to boost the profit of a few large companies (as openly recognized by Minister Paulo Guedes, by the way, at the notorious ministerial meeting of April 22, 2020), and all this in the period in which the majority of the population (and companies in general) had a reduction in earnings and an increase in suffering, not resulting from such an initiative, including any socially relevant economic effect, in fact, quite the contrary, since Brazil, after the period started in 2017, it returned to the hunger map.

The fact is that MPs 927 and 936, edited by the government during the pandemic and which brought even more in-depth formulas of labor exploitation, even to the level of the suppression of life, constituted the uniting factor between the government and those who, inserted in the class dominant, has publicly presented itself as its opponents.

Even between the STF and the head of the federal government, who present themselves as staunch opponents, the point of unity is the increase in the exploitation of the workforce. In this aspect, in fact, the STF assumes a position of extreme relevance, since this result of retraction of labor rights cannot be reached without undermining the constitutional legal bases.

Remember, by the way, that the STF, selectively, has not yet ruled on the constitutionality, put under discussion through ADIs, of various points of the labor “reform” and, in an accelerated manner, declared (in ADI 6363) the constitutionality of the rule contained in MP 936 that allowed the reduction of wages and rights by individual agreement between worker and employer, on the grounds that we are in a state of exception.

This unity of purpose, maintained in a pandemic moment, acquires a macabre aspect, as it prevents an effective institutional reaction against the denialist policy adopted by the government, which explains, in a broader and more real way, the fact that, on 26/ 08/21, to 578 deaths from COVID-19 in Brazil.

Incidentally, after so many deaths without any serious confrontation in terms of accountability, what has already been enshrined as our “new normal” is complete insensitivity to other people's lives. Victims of COVID-19 and institutional neglect continue to die, from 800 to 1.000 people a day, but this fact does not even enter into our concerns.

The result is that, without a serious and consistent reaction from other parts of the ruling class, deaths from COVID-19 spread across the country, affecting, above all, the working class, which, also with the endorsement of the ruling class, was subjected to to even more precarious conditions of life and work and, as an integrated effect of all this, also without any relevant institutional objection, the government has been deepening its authoritarian practices, expressed in arbitrary arrests of leaders of social movements, in acts of personal violence against black people, women and transgender people, in opening administrative proceedings against teachers and public servants, in repression of strikes (under this last aspect, see Normative Instruction n. 54, of July 1, 2021, of the Ministry of the Economy, with the objective of identifying the planning of strikes in the federal public administration, monitoring the stoppages, promoting the automatic cut off of the point of the server that joins the strike).

And so, with this macabre alliance, backed by measures that made possible the greater exploitation of the workforce, such as MPs 927 and 936, and also reinforced by promises around the adoption of other normative interventions aimed at opening spaces for private sector initiatives, such as privatizations, administrative reform (PEC 32), tax reform, environmental openings (already implemented by the denial of inspection) and the temporal framework (already under way with the genocide of the original peoples and through the total absence of public policies on the issue of indigenous reserves), the tragic situation in Brazil is only deepening.

In the field of labor relations, as already mentioned, the social and economic ineffectiveness of MP 936 remained notorious, which favored, mainly, large companies in their intention to maintain profit margins even during the pandemic, increasing the extraction of value of the workforce of those who continued working, through the reduction of rights and wages and the increase in working hours, in addition to suspending state inspection of compliance with health and safety measures at work.

Despite this, on April 28, 2021, when the establishment of the COVID-19 CPI became a reality and the number of deaths reached 400, the measure taken by the government, with the clear purpose of keeping tensions with the part of the ruling class, was to renew the favor to the economic sector, promoting, then, the edition of the MP 1045. The MP 1045, in the act of its publication, practically only extended for another 120 days the effects of the MP 936 (of the suspension of contracts and reduction of wages).

However, in order to show how the dominant forces unite and articulate to increase the exploitation of the workforce in Brazil, when the MP was submitted to a vote in the Chamber of Deputies, several other themes were added to it, all in the same towards the satisfaction of economic interest. Three more precarious forms of exploitation of the workforce were added to the text of the Provisional Measure, in addition to new changes in the CLT, above all, to further impede access to Labor Justice by workers.

This authentic legislative coup was carried out without media fanfare, since the news was deliberately taken over by the President's repeated speeches about the printed vote and the imminence of voting on the bill on the subject in the National Congress. It was thus that, silently, in the same session in which the project of the printed vote was rejected, on August 10, 2021, the basic text of MP 1045 was approved in the Chamber of Deputies, just after two days of processing, having All the so-called “tortoises” that were included in the original text were maintained.

However, the unconstitutionality of this procedure for inserting new topics in the MP conversion vote, as already defined by the STF, in the judgment of ADI 5127. The unconstitutionality of the content of the MP, first for reiterating an issue that has already been the subject of a decision by the STF, in a decision handed down on June 16, 2020 (ADI 6363), when it was declared that the possibility of reducing wages and suspending contracts by means of an individual agreement - that is, without union participation – it would only be possible exceptionally, for a period of 90 (ninety) days. Second, because it was not found, as justified in the judgment handed down by the STF, that the measure was effective in preserving jobs. Third, for creating new precarious forms of labor exploitation and promoting changes in the CLT with the aim of preventing access to justice and violating the constitutional precept pertaining to gratuity.

Briefly, MP 1045, already converted into the Conversion Bill nº 17/2021 (“PLC 17”), in view of the approval already promoted in the Chamber of Deputies, in addition to reproducing the terms of MP 936, which refers to “ Emergency Employment and Income Maintenance Benefit”; the proportional reduction of working hours and wages and the temporary suspension of the employment contract also creates: (1) “First Opportunity Program for Reinsertion into Employment” (PRIORE); (2) “Special Regime for Incentive Work, Qualification and Productive Inclusion” (REQUIP); (3) “National Voluntary Social Service Provision Program”.

The new “hiring” possibilities are clearly unconstitutional, because, on the pretext of aiming, as stated in the Project’s recitals, to contribute to access to work for people in vulnerable situations, instead of creating an inclusion mechanism such as that of “ quotas”, the identification of a specific social group is made solely to take advantage of the condition of vulnerability in order to allow the workforce of the people integrated into the group to be purchased at a lower cost, which is visualized by means of the express removal from the employment relationship and the consequent elimination of constitutionally guaranteed rights to male and female workers in general.

Vulnerability is therefore adopted as a factor that reduces citizenship. Specifically, for people who consider themselves to be in a situation of vulnerability, instead of granting themselves the guarantees of Social Security and promoting the implementation of public policies of effective inclusion, what is done is to deny them the constitutional order, notably in what concerns refers to labor rights, established in the Constitution as minimum rights, giving private companies and the State itself the opportunity to take advantage of these people economically. Thus, Brazilian institutions offer companies (and the State itself) the miserable, who were created exactly by the precarious forms already in force, to be exploited.

It is, therefore, an authentic legislative scandal, a mockery, a scolding, in the style of those who repeatedly pronounce the head of the nation, but which, this time, comes from the Chamber of Deputies, with the explicit support of the ruling class , including the mainstream press and its organic intellectuals. And it is worth noting that, in view of the many reductions in rights already promoted, even the so-called typical contracting of the CLT no longer meets the level set in the Constitution. So much so that the Federal government itself, in its eagerness to affront public servants, already claims the possibility of hiring via CLT.

In this respect, it should also be noted, to once again demonstrate how, in Brazil, apparently adverse forces unite when it comes to increasing the exploitation of the workforce, for the preservation of diverse interests, that, on August 17, when the “crisis” between the STF and the President of the Republic, the news became public – STF tends to allow CLT contracts in the Union – in the sense that the STF, as a sign of truce and seeking peace between the Powers, in the judgment to be held the following day, August 18, referring to an action proposed 21 years ago, would be willing to authorize the formalization of this type of hiring, even facilitating the government's task with regard to the approval of the same theme inserted in PEC 32 (administrative reform). The trial was suspended due to the request for a review by Minister Nunes Marques.

PLC 17 (MP 1045) was forwarded to the Federal Senate, but now all these issues have been made public. With this, workers' organizations are having the opportunity to mobilize and expose their opposition to the project. On the other hand, the alliances of the ruling class move towards putting pressure on the Senate for the project to be approved, not manifesting themselves about the unconstitutionalities it carries (;

For his part, the President of the Republic continues to fulfill his role in this landholding, which is to express increasingly threatening speeches about a coup, to divert the attention of the news to the field of his bravado and his offenses. of all kinds to everything and everyone, and, in order to convey the message that the pact of alliance with the dominant economic class is still in force, it directs its rifle verbiage to the formulation of criticisms of the CLT.

It is not by chance, therefore, that in the midst of the announcement of a military mobilization for the 7th of September, the President goes public and asks, sarcastically: how is it possible to create jobs “with a CLT that is so rigid?” (

And the ruling class applauds and reassures itself, after all, to paraphrase Gorender, “what, fundamentally, has enabled the federal government to triumph over fragmenting tendencies and institutional instability is to keep under effective management the interests of a ruling class nationally coordinated by the national interest. common defense of the dispossession of the working class”.

It is just not known to what extent the President and his most direct radical supporters will not start to consider that the spectacularization can stop being just a rhetorical deviation and become something effectively plausible and achievable, not least because they carry with them the credit of the repeated complicity of the institutions, of the various political forces and the most influential fractions of the ruling class, with regard to the contempt of the guaranteeing precepts of the democratic order and of the constitutionally guaranteed individual and social rights.

Furthermore, the Labor Judiciary (which has been applying, without any critical sense, the labor “reform”), the Federal Supreme Court (which does not rule on the unconstitutionality of “reform” and legitimizes so many other unconstitutionalities, notably when it comes to the rights of male and female workers), the representations of productive and financial entities, the mainstream media and the Chamber of Deputies.

It may seem like an exaggerated boast, but the situation has reached a point where the only hope left for us now is the Federal Senate, because if the Legislative Power approves this legislative aberration, integrated with everything that has already been achieved, it will not be possible to talk more concretely and seriously about formal democratic regularity and the rule of law in the country.

Let's see, then, what the Federal Senate will say about the flagrant unconstitutionalities expressed in PLC 17 (MP 1045), in the session scheduled for the 1sto of September.

Depending on what is said, the coup demonstration scheduled for September 07th may only represent an event to commemorate the government and its most direct allies of the radical conservative wing in terms of consolidating the complete removal of constitutional restraints and the consequent domination full power over all other political and economic forces linked to the ruling class, with serious repercussions, of course, on the lives of all people and, above all, workers.

One way or another, what is already concrete is that the revelations opened up by this historical process give the working class the real possibility of extracting the recognition that it is involved in a game in which it participates only as a piece on the chessboard. and not like someone who plays, resulting from this understanding the hope that the popular forces, finally, wake up and take back the power that belongs to them and the place they deserve in the protagonism of history, which could even start on the same day 07.

*Jorge Luiz Souto Maior is a professor of labor law at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of Moral damage in employment relationships (Studio editors).


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