Companies in RS employed outsourced employees who were found in degrading conditions. Part of the amount will be reverted to entities, projects and funds aimed at compensating for damages. with the Ministry of Labor (MPT), according to which they will pay R$ 7 million in compensation. Of this amount, R$ 2 million should be allocated to rescued workers and R$ 5 million should benefit entities, funds and projects aimed at repairing the damage.
About 200 workers were rescued by the authorities in an operation carried out on February 22. Outsourced employees provided services to Aurora, Garibaldi and Salton wineries and were kept in precarious accommodation in degrading conditions and were constantly under threat of violence.
The value of the amount, which will be apportioned among the wineries, was defined by the MPT in a Conduct Adjustment Term (TAC).
The MPT states that the compensation aims to compensate individual and collective moral damages. The wineries have up to 15 days to make the payments from the presentation of the list of the redeemed.
The three wineries assumed 21 obligations, which include monitoring the working conditions of employees hired on an outsourced basis. Failure to comply with each of the clauses will result in a fine of up to R$ 300,000.
The MPT is now working to hold accountable the company that supplies the workforce and is responsible for the conditions imposed on workers, Fênix Serviços Administrativos e Apoio à Gestão de Saúde LTDA.
Exploitation and violence
In their statements to the authorities, workers reported episodes of violence, such as beatings with broomsticks, bites, electric shocks and attacks with pepper spray, in addition to poor working and housing conditions.
They also denounced practices such as issuing vouchers, fines and discounts on salaries, which led the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MTE) and the MPT to consider the situation as a work regime analogous to slavery.
The men worked on the grape harvest from Sunday to Friday, from 5am to 8pm and without breaks – despite being forced to sign at the point that they had Sundays off. They started working in early February, however, surprised by the terrible working conditions, they tried to leave Rio Grande do Sul, but were even threatened and beaten.
Workers reported being victims of financial exploitation and mistreatment. They say that they received spoiled food from Phoenix representatives, that they could only buy products at a market near the accommodation at overpriced prices and that the amount spent was deducted from their salary. In this way, workers ended the month owing money to the company, as consumption exceeded the value of their salary.
They also said that they could not leave the place and that, if they wanted to, they would have to pay the supposed “debt”. In addition, employers threatened their family members.
The workers were freed by an operation carried out by the MPT, together with the MTE and the Federal Police (PF) and Federal Highway Police (PRF). The authorities stated that they had been tricked after being promised temporary employment, a salary of 4,000 reais and also paid accommodation and meals.
The operation was carried out after three workers sought out the PRF, in Caxias do Sul, claiming that they had fled from a lodging – in Bairro Borgo, about 15 kilometers from the vineyards of Bento Gonçalves – where they were held against their will. The rescued workers were even housed at the Darcy Pozza gym, in Bento Gonçalves, until they could return home.
What do the wineries say?
Aurora, Garibaldi and Salton wineries claim that they were unaware of the irregularities practiced by Fênix and that they always acted within the law.
Vinícola Aurora stated that “it continues to act on several fronts in the implementation of the best labor, social and, mainly, human practices in the company and in its production chain”.
The company says that the TAC “is another step towards repairing the damage to temporary workers, as well as ensuring the company’s commitment to permanent measures to promote dignified and safe working conditions”.
Garibaldi declared that the TAC “reaffirms its commitment, before Brazilian society and the wine chain, to act effectively in complying with and demanding practices that respect human and labor rights.
“Adherence to the document is a demonstration of our social responsibility and a concrete movement to ensure that this situation is resolved in the best way and, above all, that it never happens again”.
The winery ensures that it has adopted practices that include “improving the policy for contracting outsourced services in terms of integrity (compliance) and changes in the selection process of service providers, with systematic audits in the execution of work. The inclusion is also in progress. of contractual clauses in respect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Salton evaluates that the terms of the agreement “reinforce that the companies voluntarily agreed with the payment, in the form of compensation, in the amount of R$ 7 million”.
The company says that “the voluntary signing of this term is intended to publicly reinforce its commitment to social responsibility, good faith and appreciation of human rights, as well as the integrity of the Rio Grande do Sul wine sector”.
rc/md (DW, ots)
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