The labor law prohibits what it calls “slave labor,” defined as “reducing someone to a condition analogous to slavery,” including subjecting someone to forced labor or exploitative working conditions in general, such as long workdays, unhygienic work conditions, extremely arduous labor, and labor performed in degrading working conditions. The government took a number of actions to enforce the law, although forced labor continued to occur in a number of states. Imprisonment for violations of forced labor laws is up to eight years in prison but was often not sufficient to deter violations. The law also provides penalties for various crimes related to forced labor, such as illegal recruiting or transporting workers or incurring onerous debt burdens as a condition of employment.
The National Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor, created in 2003, continued to coordinate government efforts to combat forced and exploitative labor and provided a forum for input from civil society. The commission’s members include representatives from 10 government agencies or ministries--including Human Rights, Justice, Federal Police, Agriculture, Labor, Environment--and 20 civil society groups. The ILO is also a member.
The Ministry of Labor’s Mobile Inspection Unit teams conducted surprise inspections of properties on which forced labor was suspected or reported, using teams composed of labor inspectors, labor prosecutors from the Federal Labor Prosecutor’s Office, and federal police officers. Mobile teams levied fines on landowners who used forced labor and required employers to provide back pay and benefits to workers before returning the workers to their municipalities of origin. Labor inspectors and prosecutors, however, could only apply civil penalties; so many cases were not criminally prosecuted. Workers removed by mobile units were entitled to three months’ salary at the minimum wage. The government offered few services to these workers, and NGOs noted a high revictimization rate. The Ministry of Labor and Employment continued to work with the ILO and an international agency on a project to prevent revictimization through job training services for victims rescued from forced labor in Mato Grosso do Sul.
According to the Special Mobile Inspection Unit to Combat Forced Labor, from 1995 to 2014, there were 1,727 operations conducted, more than 48,094 workers rescued, and 92 million reais ($23.3 million) paid in back pay. In 2014 a total of 1,509 workers were rescued from slave labor conditions, representing the lowest figure since 2001 and a yearly downward trend since 2007.
The Ministry of Labor’s “Dirty List” served to deter companies from employing forced labor, as those companies on the list were denied lines of credit from financial institutions. In December 2014 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Brazilian Association of Real Estate Developers (Abrainc) and prohibited publication of the list. The list was suspended for three months before the Secretariat of Human Rights and the Ministry of Labor used the country’s Access to Information law to obtain and republish the list.
Efforts against forced labor were hindered by failure to impose effective penalties, the remoteness of the areas where such crimes typically occurred, lack of awareness of rights and responsibilities, delays in judicial procedure that resulted in de facto impunity for those responsible, and lack of sufficient programs to assist victims of forced labor.
Efforts of the federal government were supported by a number of state initiatives, and several states had commissions for the eradication of forced labor, including Tocantins, Goias, Ceara, Rondonia, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Para, Maranhao, Mato Grosso, and Rio Grande do Sul. The Sao Paulo State Commission for the Eradication of Forced Labor (COETRAE) met regularly during the year under the coordination of the Secretariat of Justice. In the first five months of the year, COETRAE registered 176 cases of forced labor within Sao Paulo State, although there were no convictions by December.
The Ministry of Justice trained 40 civil guards to better report trafficking crimes and to coordinate with Federal and Highway Police.
Forced labor, including forced child labor, occurred in many states in industries such as clearing forests to provide cattle pastureland, logging, producing charcoal, raising livestock, and other agricultural activities. Forced labor often involved young men drawn from the less-developed northeastern states--Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins, and Ceara--and the central state of Goias to work in the northern and central-western regions of the country. In addition there were reports of forced labor in the construction industry also involving young men principally from the Northeast. Cases of forced labor were also reported in the garment industry in the city of Sao Paulo; the victims were often from neighboring countries, particularly Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay, while others came from Haiti and China.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.