An operation by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MTE) rescued 11 workers from Minas Gerais and Santa Catarina in conditions similar to slavery on a rural property in Aratiba, in the north of Rio Grande do Sul. The action, carried out on October 31 , was only released this Wednesday (8) and had the support of the Public Ministry of Labor (MPT) and the Federal Highway Police (PRF).
The workers were found in accommodation in precarious conditions, without drinking water or beds for everyone. Also found were irregularities in the application of pesticides used in tomato crops to treat insecticides, that were handled without the use of protective equipmentaccording to the task force.
The location was found after an anonymous tip. One of the workers, Vonei Antônio Dias, 27 years old, came from Caçador, in Santa Catarina, and reported the difficulties faced at the site.
“The hardest part was the rainy days, which flooded everything. There was one day when we got up at 3am because the entire accommodation was flooded”, he recalls.
The same scenario faced by Vanildo Rodrigues de Souza, 36 years old, who came from Capelinha, Minas Gerais, and said he had never been through a similar situation.
“No electricity, no water, drinking dirty water because we were thirsty. The boss didn’t give us any help. We didn’t deserve to go through this humiliation”, he says.
A Conduct Adjustment Term (TAC) was signed between the employer and the supervisory bodies. According to the MTE, the owner committed to paying the entire salary withheld from the last six months — the period during which the workers were in Aratiba.
The employer was notified to arrange for the termination of employment contracts, pay labor credits and purchase return tickets to the workers’ hometowns. The return home is scheduled for next Thursday (9).
Compensation will also be paid to employees. Added together, the values exceed R$200,000. The employer may also respond in the criminal sphere for reducing the worker to a condition similar to that of a slave.
According to labor attorney Antônio Bernardo Santos Pereira, workers did not have access to adequate drinking water.
“There was a lack of beds, mattresses were on the floor, people were cold. Food was provided in the dormitories, in addition to the absence of drinking water. The water used on the plantation was in better condition than that used by employees“, it says.
The workers were recruited by the employer and came to the north of the state in June, but according to the MPT, the work registration was only carried out days later. At the time, all expenses were paid by the property owner.
According to the workers, some promised benefits such as food vouchers would not have been passed on, but were still discounted.
According to workers, the salary, which should have been around R$1,800, did not reach R$400. They were instructed to buy food at a local market indicated by the owner, which, according to the MTE, would be values well above those predicted by legislation.
“These workers ended up becoming indebted, not with the market, but with this employer, and this debt also ended up tying these workers to the workplace, so that salaries were paid at an amount much lower than that provided for in the legislation and this was another reason why workers were unable to leave this employment relationship”, says labor inspector Lucilene Pacini.