The Jair Bolsonaro government (without a party) started to refuse funds collected as a result of labor violations, used directly to equip inspection groups of the government itself, and determined that these amounts and goods be destined to the FDD (Diffuse Rights Defense Fund) or to FAT (Worker’s Support Fund).
The change in the use of resources and goods — such as vans intended for the performance of labor inspectors — depletes labor inspection, due to the strong dependence of regional management and superintendence on goods, services and works provided for in the TACs (adjustment terms of conduct) signed by the MPT (Ministry of Labor).
Auditors, members of the MPT and the Labor Court point to a setback in the imposition made by the Bolsonaro government, led by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The measure could paralyze inspections of slave labor, work accidents and child labor, according to critics of the measure.
The move took effect after the re-creation of the Ministry of Labor at the end of July, an action by Bolsonaro to relocate one of his main allies in the political field, Onyx Lorenzoni, on the Esplanade.
Bolsonaro had extinguished the portfolio as soon as it arrived at the Planalto Palace, in 2019. The work had been added to the Ministry of Economy, by Paulo Guedes.
An official letter from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security dated October 27, obtained by the sheet, communicates to sub-secretariats, coordinations and regional superintendencies the “impossibility of receiving patrimonial goods or financial resources resulting from TAC or application of fines”.
The official letter is signed by the Ministry’s Labor secretary, Luís Felipe Batista de Oliveira.
When receiving a complaint, the MPT usually activates inspection teams formed by auditors linked to the Ministry of Labor. A report —on slave labor, an accident at work, or any other related issue— is sent to the prosecutors who are part of the MPT, who can, from there, make a TAC with the company involved.
The agreement may involve payments for collective pain and suffering. In the execution of the agreement, it is common that among the foreseen possibilities are the destination of vehicles, drones, works or services for the operation of the inspection teams.
Auditors heard by sheet report that, given budget restrictions, this is the only way for teams to take to the streets for labor inspection. It is also the only way for the very existence of regional units, in cities far from large urban centers.
To change the destination of resources provided for in the MPT’s TACs, the Ministry of Labor made use of two legal opinions prepared by the Bolsonaro government.
One was prepared by the AGU (Union General Attorney) between December 2019 and March 2020, when the then substitute attorney general, Renato de Lima França, endorsed the document.
The other is the result of a consultation carried out by the Social Security and Labor Secretariat, when it was still linked to the Economy. It was prepared by the PGFN (Attorney General of the National Treasury) in August this year.
“As stated in the opinion of the AGU, the amounts intended to indemnify diffuse or collective rights in the strict sense, agreed within the scope of TACs, including the fines arising from any non-compliance, must be allocated to the FDD or, in cases where the rights diffuse or collective have a labor nature, to the FAT,” said the ministry in the letter.
The opinion of the PGFN, according to the folder, says that the ministry cannot directly receive the goods and resources allocated by the MPT.
The ministry then recommends that the units no longer receive “permanent goods (furniture and real estate), services, works or even financial resources from the MPT as a result of TACs”.
If the recommendation is not met, public agents may be held responsible, according to the official letter.
Forecasts made in TACs guaranteed basic costs, such as gasoline and car tires.
The new orientation of the Ministry of Labor —unprecedented, according to auditors heard by the report— has already led to at least three refusals of goods and resources: R$ 1 million in Paraná; a pickup truck in the Holy Spirit; and a van for rural inspection in the interior of Minas Gerais.
In the case of this last refusal, the MPT called the Labor Court, which determined that the regional management in Montes Claros receive the vehicle.
The legal opinion used by the Ministry of Labor is of an “internal nature” and “does not bind this court”, according to the decision of the Labor Court of Pirapora (MG).
The Court pointed out that the allocation of resources to the proposed funds was illegal.
The FDD, when listing its purposes, did not mention reparation for damages caused to workers, according to the decision. And FAT’s resources do not meet the social purposes provided for by law, being earmarked for unemployment insurance, salary bonuses and professional education, according to the decision.
Judge Pedro Paulo Ferreira determined that the Superintendence of Labor receive the truck agreed upon in the TAC signed by the MPT, “in order to allow the fulfillment of its supervisory function”.
The magistrate stated that the need to allocate the property to the regional management in Montes Claros is “uncontroversial”.
In a statement, the MPT stated that it complies with the law on public civil action, resolutions from the CNMP (National Council of the Public Ministry) and the CSMPT (Superior Council of the MPT) and court decisions that determine damages.
“The MPT understands that the allocation of resources to funds, in the exercise of its final, judicial or extrajudicial activity, is not the only alternative offered by the legal system, with other forms of direct or indirect reparation for the damage caused, all in favor of promotion of decent work,” the note said.
The Ministry of Labor stated that it was based on the legal opinions of the AGU and the PGFN.
“The circular letter is nothing more than an orientation to the units subordinated to the ministry for the fulfillment of the mentioned legal understandings”, he affirmed, in a note.
The inspection of slave labor, child labor, work accidents and all related inspections are guaranteed by resources available in the Federal Budget, according to the folder.
“It is not, therefore, a matter of compensation for not receiving these goods. The Union Budget must guarantee the progress of fiscal actions throughout the country.”
Regarding the decision of the Labor Court in Minas Gerais, the ministry stated that it is awaiting an opinion from the AGU, which filed an appeal against the decision.