- The data has raised concerns about a lack of oversight by several major Brazilian companies as well as local authorities that are mostly responsible for running the public health system in a nation with the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll;
- Brazil has registered more than 4.7 million cases since the pandemic began, with at least 143,000 deaths.
Dozens of local authorities and state-owned companies in Brazil are facing lawsuits accused of failing to protect workers including doctors and nurses from COVID-19, data obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation has revealed.
Labor prosecutors filed 69 lawsuits against city governments and state-controlled firms such as Banco do Brasil in the first half of the year for reported coronavirus labor abuses such as not providing workers with protective equipment.
Local governments and other public sector bodies were the target of 30% of the 230 labor lawsuits related to the pandemic – more than any private sector industry except transport – according to data obtained via the Access of Information law.
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The data has raised concerns about a lack of oversight by several major Brazilian companies as well as local authorities that are mostly responsible for running the public health system in a nation with the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll. Brazil has registered more than 4.7 million cases since the pandemic began, with at least 143,000 deaths.
“(Government) action is not just chaotic, it’s catastrophic. And they must be made responsible for this,” said Joao Domingos, head of the Confederation of Public Servants of Brazil (CSPB).
“(City governments) lack sensitivity to such a degree that we need to take them to court for a basic thing like caring for their employees’ health,” added Domingos, whose organization represents more than 1,000 public worker labor unions.
Brazil’s labor secretariat – which sits in the economy ministry – said it was not responsible for the public sector and referred questions to the management and personnel performance secretariat. The division did not reply to request for comment.
About 7,500 complaints about workplace abuses were made against public bodies in the first eight months of the year – up from 7,200 for the whole of 2019 – labor prosecutor data shows. It is unknown how many complaints were related to the pandemic.
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“The large number of lawsuits stems precisely from the fact that state entities consistently fail (to protect workers)”, said Ileana Neiva, head of Conap, the prosecutors’ division responsible for addressing labor abuses in the public sector.
Labor prosecutors tend to strike deals and agree not to take further action if employers address the issues raised, but if a case reaches court, judges may sentence and fine an employer.
Beyond that, a labor judge can refer the case to regular prosecutors who may then start a criminal investigation.
A total of 1,652 lawsuits were filed by labor prosecutors in the first half of 2020, so about 14% were related to COVID-19.