The preliminary order granted by Brazil’s Supreme Court preventing the federal government from disclosing the ‘dirty list’ of slave labor in late 2014 remains in place. As a result, Repórter Brasil and the Institute of the National Pact for Eradication of Slave Labor (InPACTO) used the Access to Information Act (Law 12527/2012) to request that the Ministry of Labor and Employment (in charge of the list since 2003) provided data on employers charged with using labor characterized as analogous to slavery, whose processes had had final administrative decisions between May 2013 and May 2015.
By disclosing the ‘Transparency List of Contemporary Slave Labor in Brazil’, those organizations aim to enforce society’s and businesses’ right to transparency on the issue, providing information about cases of labor analogous to slavery found by the Brazilian government.
The first list requested was released in March this year, with cases occurred between December 2012 and December 2014. This new request covers cases between May 2013 and May 2015 and it contains 421 names of physical and legal persons. The state of Pará has the most names, with 180 employers, followed by Minas Gerais, with 45, and Tocantins, with 28.
Suspension by the Supreme Court
During turn-of-the-year recess, on-duty Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski granted a preliminary order to the Brazilian Association of Real Estate Developers (Abrainc) suspending the ‘dirty list’ of slave labor – a record of employers caught using that type of labor. The organization challenged the constitutionality of the list, arguing, among other things, that it should be established by a specific law rather than a ministerial ordinance as it is today.
The names used to remain in the ‘black list’ for at least two years. During that time, employers should make the necessary adjustments to prevent the problem from happening again and paid their debts with the government. The suspension blocked an update of the list that was to be released on December 30. Established in 2003, the list is one of the key tools to combat that crime and is considered a reference by the United Nations.
In March 2015, the federal government launched a new ministerial ordinance (MTE/SEDH no. 2/2015) ensuring more transparency to the process of inclusion in and exclusion from the ‘dirty list’. However, the Attorney General of the Union (AGU) has so far failed to convince the Supreme Court to dismiss the Direct Action of Unconstitutionality or to suspend the preliminary order for lack of grounds given the new ordinance.
The Right to Information
The ‘dirty list’ is nothing more than a list of cases in which the government has characterized labor analogous toslavery and where employers were entitled to administrative defense at first and second instances. Furthermore, society has the right to know the acts of public authorities. Therefore, based on Articles 10, 11 and 12 of the Access to Information Act (12527/2012) – which established that any government agency must provide public information – and Article 5 of the 1988 Federal Constitution, Repórter Brasil and InPACTO requested the following:
‘The list of employers charged as a result of characterization of labor analogous to slavery, whose procedures had administrative final decisions confirming the charge between May 2013 and May 2015, including the following: name of employer (individual or legal person); name of the establishment where the charge was notified; address of the establishment where the situation was characterized; taxpayer’s number of individual or company involved; number of workers involved; and date of inspection when the charge was notified.’
Brazilian society depends on official and reliable information about activities of the Ministry of Labor and Employment in monitoring and combating contemporary slave labor.
Free information is crucial for companies and other institutions to develop their risk management and corporate social responsibility policies. The ordinance regulating the suspended ‘dirty list’ did not oblige businesses to take any action; it only guaranteed transparency. The same applies to the list attached here. They are only sources of information about inspections conducted by public authorities.
Transparency is essential for the market to function satisfactorily. By not reporting on their labor, social and environmental liabilities, companies withhold relevant information that can be considered by investors, lenders or business partners when they do business.
After the list was suspended, state banks that used it before doing new business ceased checking cases ofslave labor. However, some of those banks started using this ‘Transparency List on Contemporary Slavery in Brazil’ as a reference, since there was no other mechanism for public disclosure of that extremely important information.
The information contained in the ‘Transparency List of Slave Labor in Brazil’ is official, since it was provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment through formal and transparent request, thus meeting all legal requirements provided for in the Access to Information Act. That request can be repeated by any citizen, social organization or company. The list will be the main instrument of InPACTO member companies to control and monitor the production chain in terms of labor.
Repórter Brasil and InPACTO work in a permanent partnership to combat slave labor in Brazil, supported by several social and environmental organizations, international and bilateral organizations, national and multinational companies, political and religious leaders, judges and prosecutors. All means will be used to mobilize society for eradicating slave labor and achieving information transparency.
Translator: Roberto Cataldo