Economic retaliation most effective against slave labour

Economic sanctions prove to give the best results against slave labour, according to an evaluation of Luiz Machado, coordinator of the Projeto de Combate ao Trabalho Forçado no Brasil (Project to Combat Forced Labour in Brazil) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). He observed that civil public actions of the Ministry of Labour, credit restrictions (following a resolution of the National Monetary Council) and a boycott by retailers, are much more efficient than criminal proceedings.

Justice doesn’t work in Brazil, as there are criminal cases that expire without trial. Machado notes that impunity is for offenders “worth the risk” to be apprehended for exploiting labour under conditions similar to slavery. On January 3, 2011 the Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego (MTE = Ministry of Labour and Employment) released the so-called black-list, which records employers who exploit slave labour. The list contains 220 offenders, of whom 88 are new to this latest bi-annual edition.

Offenders are included in the list when all available administrative proceedings by the MTE  are exhausted. To get withdrawn from the black-list new labour inspections should prove during two years that no recurrence occurred and the (previous) fines are paid.
During the government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, between 2003 and 2010, approximately 33,000 people were rescued from slave labour.

The exploration of slavery is a crime, according to the Penal Code and prevailing labour laws. In addition, Brazil is one of the countries that signed the two ILO conventions on forced labour and the abolition of this form of exploitation. Since 1999, a proposal to amend the Constitution (PEC No. 438) muddles along Congress. And this is the sneaky part for the members of Congress as the proposal will provide for the expropriation of lands where slave labour is found.

Luiz Machado points out that the exploitation of slave labour, isn’t just isolated to rural areas (where you can find it in farming and charcoal furnishes in the North and Northeast, for example) but also in the cities (as is the case with Bolivian and Paraguayan workers exploited in the textile industry of São Paulo).

There is no way to grade whether the worst forms of exploitation occur in the countryside or in urban areas. Brazil have seen cases of physical and sexual violence, killings and mass graves on farms, but also workers and their children held in private prisons in the cities, without seeing sunlight, and with no right to shower.

The ILO estimates that the use of slave labour generates worldwide USD 32 billion profits per year. According to the international organization, despite the high incidence, Brazil is the most advanced country in its ways to combat exploitation of slave labour.