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Brazil to issue 'dirty list' of employers using slave labor based on court findings

by Fabio Teixeira | @ffctt | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 2 July 2019 23:24 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Men work on a farm north of Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 2011. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

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The list will be compiled from a roster of companies and people found guilty in labor courts

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By Fabio Teixeira

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Brazil will create a new "dirty list" of employers that engaged in modern slavery, drawn from a roster of companies and people found guilty in labor courts of the practice, officials said on Tuesday.

The move by the Labor Prosecutor's Office is aimed at shedding more light on slave labor, which Brazil formally acknowledged in 1995 existed in the country.

The new list will stand along with a "dirty list" launched in 2004 which names employers deemed guilty by an internal government body. Companies on that list are blocked from receiving state loans and have restrictions placed on sales, and private banks use the list to gauge credit risk.

The new list is likely to name different companies and people, officials said.

"This is the great difference - it shows the other end of the process, where there is the judicial ruling," said Ronaldo Fleury, labor prosecutor-general.

"The lists complement each other, as their databases are different," he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The 2004 government-created list has been hailed by the United Nations as a key tool in Brazil's anti-slavery drive.

Brazil's effort to fight slave labor has included a special enforcement unit to find and raid sites suspected of using forced labor.

Since 1995, government agents have found more than 53,000 people toiling in slavery-like conditions.

The new list of employers found guilty of slave labor or human trafficking is due to be completed in about six months.

In Brazil, the executive and judicial branches of government are independent and can reach different conclusions, so names could appear on one list but not the other.

In Brazil slavery is defined as forced labor, but also includes debt bondage, degrading work conditions, long hours that pose a health risk or work that violates human dignity.

The coming months will be spent combing through thousands of court documents to see who to add, said labor prosecutor Rafael Gomes.

"It's going to be a huge technological undertaking," said Gomes, who helped design the list's framework.

He said he expects names not on the current government "dirty list" may be added to the prosecutor's one.

"There are a number of cases where the judiciary recognizes slave labor, but that you won't find on the (government's) list because it did not involve labor inspectors."

The most recent existing list in April had about 186 names.

It recently came under scrutiny when major firms were found to have used legal means to avoid being put on it.

Both lists will be updated every six months, and companies will remain listed for a set number of years unless they reach a deal to pay reparations and improve labor conditions.

Anti-slavery campaigner Leonardo Sakamoto said he expects the new list to be shorter because the older list has cases involving labor inspectors who are involved in most rescue operations.

"The objective of the list is to complement the labor inspectors' one," he said.

(Reporting by Fabio Teixeira; Editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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