SAO PAULO – Brazilian metal workers protested Thursday in several cities against a labor-law overhaul that President Michel Temer’s administration strongly backed and Congress passed earlier this year.
Between 200 and 300 people gathered in downtown Sao Paulo to express their rejection of the changes and defend their rights.
The metal workers’ unions had called for a “National Day of Struggle” against the overhaul, but there was little support for the protests nationwide and the demonstration in Sao Paulo mobilized smaller numbers of people than usual.
Signed by Temer in July and due to take effect in 120 days, the changes to legislation dating back to the 1940s were aimed at making rules on hiring and terms of employment more flexible.
The new rules lend legal legitimacy to contracts reached by companies and workers via collective bargaining, making them valid even if they contradict some aspects of the labor code providing strict workers’ rights protections.
Among other changes, companies will have flexibility in terms of reducing the lunch break through collective bargaining and dividing up vacation time.
In addition, according to the Sao Paulo-based Demarest Advogados law firm, hours incurred by the employee when using employer-offered transportation are no longer treated as part of the employees’ working schedule and companies are no longer required to negotiate mass lay-offs with workers’ unions.
The labor-law changes were part of packet of fiscal measures Temer’s government proposed to bring down a high budget deficit and get the economy moving after two years of recession.
Brazil’s economy has experienced a mild recovery this year after contracting by 3.8 percent and by 3.6 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively, with gross domestic product (GDP) expanding by 1 percent in the first quarter and by 0.2 percent between April and June.