Note from BW of Brazil: As Brazilians are surely seeing now, they got far more than what they bargained for when millions to the streets over the past few years against the government of President Dilma Rousseff. Although the media generally didn’t show how much support Rousseff actually had, there were many protesters in the streets who probably had no idea of the direction that Rousseff’s successor, her Vice President, Michel Temer, would take the country. And as the protests against Temer continue, today we consider the parcel of the population that could be the most affected by the policies being implemented by the current administration: black women. The precarious position of most black women in Brazil’s social structure makes even more puzzling the hailing of the current president of the “godfather” of black women by a black woman. I mean, what kind of “godfather” is this?
Labor reform worsens situation of black women in the labor market
Group has lower wages and unemployment rate double that of white men
By Anastácia Silva
Theme was debated at the Regional Economic Council of Rio de Janeiro
The project of Reforma Trabalhista (Labor Reform) ready to be voted on by the Câmara dos Deputados (House of Representatives) will hit the black population in full with the precariousness. Black women, in particular, with lower wages and unemployment rates twice as high as white men will be the main losers. Because they face racism and machismo in the labor market, they find it more difficult to occupy formal, more qualified and better-paying jobs.
The findings are from the Seminar “A Reforma Trabalhista na vida das mulheres negras” (Labor Reform in the life of black women), held Wednesday, April 12, in Rio de Janeiro. In the presence of Federal Deputy Benedita da Silva (PT), speakers from the Regional Labor Prosecutor’s Office, Dieese, of the Fórum Estadual de Mulheres Negras e da Justiça Global (State Forum of Black Women and Global Justice) tackled the objective of the reform: to remove guaranteed rights in the Consolidação das Leis do Trabalho (Consolidation of Labor Laws) (CLT), to the benefit of employers. The debate was held at the Conselho Regional de Economia (Regional Council of Economy), downtown.
From Dieese, expert Carolina Gagliano has shown that black women are the most vulnerable, in jobs with less social protection, without a carteira assinada (formal work contract), in domestic employment or working as outsourced workers, usually in cleaning. However, including them in the labor market is still a challenge. Reflecting the slave-owning past and structural racism, the researcher revealed that their unemployment rate is much higher than that of the rest of the population. In the case of mulheres pretas (black women), it is 14%, twice the rate of unemployment among homens brancos (white men), 6.9%. The number of mulheres pardas (brown women), with the second lowest rate, is 13%, higher than the unemployed among mulheres brancas (white women), 9.7%.
“Unemployment is not only greater among black women. There is a difference not only in the insertion of men and women in the labor market, but among black and white women,” she said. “It is very important to see this data and understand that the Brazilian reality still has as a remnant of slavery in our objective reality today,” said Gagliano.
The expert also presented data on the average remuneration of black women, a majority in the labor market pyramid, which is R$1,125, against R$2,589 for white men. This happens, she stressed, once again, because they are in less valued occupations. Moreover, it is black women who face the heaviest domestic shift. Data from the Ipea in 2013, reveals Gagliano, show that preta and parda women spend almost 22 hours a week doing household chores. This number drops to 9 hours when the reference is non-black men. “There is a study by Ipea showing that women work 8 years longer than men.”
With the proposed changes, the inclusion of these women in the labor market will not only be made more difficult by discrimination, but more precarious, in worse conditions, warns Global Justice lawyer Alexandra Montgomery. She made a statement about the exclusion of black women from the formal labor market since slavery. She recalled that since the beginning of the feminist movement, black women in Brazil worked for some time, as enslaved women, quituteiras (sweets vendor) or free workers in various activities, but without due recognition.
According to the lawyer, it is not possible to discuss the flexibilization of labor laws without thinking about who will be the most affected people and that in this debate, race, class and gender are intertwined. “Since post-slavery, what’s left for the black women who have always worked? There was no domestic work left to do,” she said. Montgomery also recalled the great resistance that was the formalization of domestic work. The measure equated the rights of these professionals to other workers in the country only in 2015.
With labor reform and the incentive to the precariousness, historian Wania Sant’Ana denounced the strategy of the State to eliminate the black population from the riches of the country. In her assessment, it is not possible to accept another reform that makes the labor market exclusionary.
“The facts show the aggressiveness of the elites against the legitimate right of this (black) segment to affirm that it has rights, nós não somos iguais (we are not equal), therefore, when the dismantling of the State presents itself, we know that it will fall in different ways and, in our case, the perversity is greater. It has been more than 120 years of the law that people call the Lei Áurea (Golden Law, abolition of slavery)) and only in this last decade, barely and reprehensively, that the black population managed to obtain some advances,” she criticized.
With the flexibilization of legislation in progress, in addition to making employment more difficult and lowering wages and benefits with transportation and food assistance, Deputada (Congresswoman) Benedita da Silva recalled that the reform makes retirement a dream. She said that another bill of the golpista (coup d’etat) President Michel Temer requires a 49-year social security contribution for the worker to receive full salary. “These [black] women are not going to be able to contribute all this time, although they have started working very early,” she criticized. She explained that black women have been accustomed to working since very young, underemployed, without a formal contract, and are in poor health. According to recent statistics from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), only a few have reached the age of 60, the life expectancy of the poor. According to the institute, by 2013, the largest female occupation was a domestic worker.
According to the congresswoman, the proposed reforms are part of the coup given by the neoliberal sector and are based on misleading arguments: “They say that with Labor Reform will generate 1 million new jobs, but what will be better if we have 13 million unemployed?, “she asked. According to parliamentarian, capitalism is going through a re-organization and black women cannot be spectators or accomplices of the removal of social rights.
“We are seeing the right coming, saying what is and what is not the role of the State. After they suckle on the tits of the state, they now want a smaller, lean state, and this lean state will not allow affirmative action policies to put poor, negrinho e negrinha (little black man and woman) in the university and riding a plane. They want to end the joke,” she said.
The solution pointed out by the specialists to guarantee jobs and with that the contributions to the Previdência Social (Social Security), is the economic growth. Carolina Gagliano recalled that during the years 2003 and 2014, when the country was not in crisis, unemployment fell and income increased, especially, of those who earned less. “Any argument against growth is fallacious and can be refuted by the experience of the last 20 years. All the flexibilization of the 1990s did not generate more jobs. The situation only improved in the 2000s with the growth of the economy and the creation of 14 million places with a formal (work) contract,” she remembered.
“We have to stop these reforms altogether if we don’t want to return to the levels of the beginning of the 20th century, of misery and semi-slavery,” she said. For the regional labor attorney Lysiane Motta, the reform is a return to the past.
“If they wish to modernize, end slave labor and child labor, implement the decent work agenda of the ILO (International Labor Organization), face bullying, discrimination against outsourced women, that earn lower wages, reduce the work week to 40 hours a week and ensure the right to strike,” said Motta. “That’s modernizing, what they’re doing is dismantling rights.”
The proposal of the labor reform of the coup president Michel Temer changes the laws that guarantee the rights of the workers. The reform has as its backbone the defense of the thesis of the negotiating between employees and employers over the legislature, which is part of the CLT. This means that agreements can be signed that ignore rights already foreseen, with lower wages than in previous years, parceling of 13th (salary) (see note one), vacations and collective dismissals without just cause. The reform also provides for on-demand, hourly work, pay for productivity and extended day, which can take the worker to work up to 12 hours in a day.
Historian Wania Sant’Ana also warned against the annoyance of the Brazilian elite with the população negra (black population), which since the end of enslavement in Brazil, was not incorporated into society. According to her, it is not true that in the middle of 2017, black people do not have enough schooling. “Black people do not occupy better places because they are discriminated against,” she assessed.
The problem of exclusion, according to the representative of the State Forum of Black Women in Rio de Janeiro, is reflected in the low productive capacity. “One of the problems of the country is exactly the lack of capacity of the população branca (white population) that is not fit to occupy the place where it is. Especially mulheres brancas (white women),” she said. The historian remembers that since the slavery, the exclusion of blacks only brought damages to Brazil. “This is the damage of discrimination.”
For Sant’Ana, labor reform “will not work, because when you decide that a good part of the population of a country has to remain out, it does not work.” “It did not succeed in the transition from slave labor to free labor, when 6 million of the people who were responsible for the country’s wealth, when things ‘worked’ were marginalized.”
Still according to the historian, work is the basis of life in society and without access to it, the population of pretos e pardos (blacks and browns) don’t have conditions to improve life and structure themselves.
The regional labor attorney Lysiane Motta also stressed that the government proposal dismantles the CLT prejudices the work of the Labor Court. The changes will not allow the work of unions, nor of the courts, which usually mediate unequal relations, when the workers don’t have the same bargaining power as the bosses, in the case of outsourced workers and smaller companies, where black women are, in general.
“The Labor Ministry has issued four technical notes against this labor reform. It is not being done because the CLT is old, it’s being done to disassemble rights,” she said.
The contradiction, she pointed out, is in the fall of formalization, which will leave poor people disregarded by social security benefits and will remove fundamental resources from the INSS (see note two).
1.Known as the thirteenth salary, a Christmas bonus was established in Brazil by Law 4.090, dated July 13, 1962, and guarantees that the worker receives the corresponding one-tenth (12%) of the compensation per month worked. That is, it consists in the payment of an extra salary to the worker at the end of each year.
2.Instituto Nacional do Seguro Social (INSS) or National Social Security Institute is a government agency of Brazil linked to the Ministry of Labor and Previdência Social (Social Security) that receives contributions for the maintenance of the Regime Geral da previdência social (General Social Security System), responsible for the payment of retirement, death pension, sickness benefits, accident aid and other benefits for those who acquire the right to these benefits as provided by law.