Friday, July 23, 2021

Brazil’s Senate passes wide labor reforms

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Brazilian President Michel Temer delivers a statement regarding the senate approval of a labour law, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on July 11, 2017. On Tuesday the Brazilian Senate plenary approved, after a protest and seven hours of suspension of the session, a controversial labour law with 50 votes in favour and 26 against. / AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA

Brazil’s Senate on Tuesday approved wide labor reforms to revive Latin America’s biggest economy, a major boost for embattled President Michel Temer who is trying to pull the country out of its worst recession ever.

The legislation, which comes as Brazil is battling unemployment of 13.3 percent, was passed 50-26.

The lower house approved the bill in April and it is expected to go into force this week.

“I think we passed one of the most ambitious reforms of the last 30 years,” Temer said after the vote.

“This definitive approval of the bill is a victory for Brazil in the battle against unemployment and in the construction of a more competitive country.”

The new rules allow companies and workers to negotiate agreements on certain issues, end compulsory union dues and give firms more flexibility on work hours and vacations for employees.

The legislation, which prompted unions to stage a strike in April and organize days of protests, was rejected by 58 percent of Brazilians, according to a recent survey.

Temer, who is battling for political survival after being charged with taking bribes, has said Brazil’s economy faces a meltdown without severe fiscal discipline and belt tightening.

He has succeeded in getting Congress to pass a 20-year freeze on spending increases.

Still to come is a controversial proposal to scale back the pension system, which is at the center of his austerity plans.

Tuesday’s vote took place after six hours of drama in the Senate chamber, which started when three opposition lawmakers blocked Senate President Eunicio Oliveira from his seat.

Oliveira responded by suspending the debates and cutting off the electricity.

Temer’s time in office has been blighted by the resignations of ministers and corruption claims creeping closer to his door.

The president faces a series of hearings before lawmakers vote on whether he should face a criminal trial over claims he accepted a $150,000 bribe from a meatpacking firm.

He has denied the accusation, which has made him the first sitting Brazilian president to face formal criminal charges.

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