On 22 March, Brazil’s coup government of Michel Temer brought forward a law, previously shelved, to legalise the expansion of outsourcing. Businesses will now be able to outsource workers for their primary activity (for example, teachers in a school). Government owned institutions can now use sub-contractors, opening the door for private sector interference in nationalised sectors.
Outsourced workers in Brazil earn on average 24.7% less than directly-employed workers, work three more hours per week, and have a total employment time of less than half of non-outsourced workers. Expansion of outsourcing will also mean companies will no longer have to guarantee the same amount of benefits (such as health insurance or holidays) to all workers; these are expected be “given” by the outsourcing company.
This will further fragment the workforce, so whereas, before all public school teachers could come together to oppose one employer (i.e. the local government), they will now be struggling against different outsourcing companies. Many in Brazil fear that this law will entrench corruption.
Government officials will be able to pick and choose between companies to hire for outsourcing, many of which will have financed political campaigns or will be property of the families of government officials. Until now there have only been small protests against the law, but a national day of action has been called for the 31 March by the PT’s sister organisation CUT (a national organisation of trade unions).
This reform is not the first outright attack on Brazilian workers since Temer took power after the impeachment of Dilma Roussef. During the first month of government a constitutional amendment put a cap on any extra investments in welfare programmes, health or education for the next 20 years. The government is threatening to pass a pension reform that would: push the minimum age for retirement from 55 for women and 60 for men to 65 for both; increase the minimum time of work needed for a person to retirement from 15 to 25 years; increase workers’ pensions contributions from 11% to 14% of a salary.
Having faced resistance from trade unions, social movements and the wider public, the government decided to play dirty and released a TV commercial stating that “without the pensions reform: say goodbye to the Bolsa Familia and FIES; no more new roads; the end of all social programmes” (Bolsa Familia is the main benefit programme in Brazil, and the FIES is a programme of loans for students going to private universities).
But people have not retreated; on International Womens’ Day tens of thousands of people took the streets in at least 17 state capitals of Brazil to fight against the pensions reform. The protesters highlighted the pensions reform as a feminist issue — women are more likely to take time out from work to take care of children and will therefore more affected by the changes. Teachers, underground workers, metal industry workers, bank workers, and more also went on strike on IWD to protest against the pensions reform.