Further remarks on child labour in Brazil.

Carlos Eduardo Rebello crebello at SPAMantares.com.br
Sat Dec 11 11:44:04 MST 1999



In a show of cheap demagoguery like the exchange of opinions between
Clinton and the Brazilian Minister Dornelles, it is necessary to dot the
ii. First, the shoe industry is by no means the most important case of
child labour in Brazil, nor is it where the most appalling conditions of
work prevail. Most child labour in Brazil refers, above all, to
*agricultural labour*, where children work alongside their parents
cutting cane, gathering oranges, etc. Last Wadnesday, I saw a
documentary directed by Marcos Prado, *Os Carvoeiros*, about conditions
of work among timber collectors that make charcoal in order to sell it
to the various steelmills that operate in the savannah region in the
Central Brazil, or in Eastern Amazonia. The system seems to function
thus: the landowner wants to make a profit from existing timber before
converting land for agricultural use; or the landowner is the steelmill
itself and wants to clear a patch of fully-grown eucalyptus in an
homogeneous planting. Therefore, the landowner contracts a family of
charcoal makers, who offer themselves as "contractors", tools of work
included. First they cut the timber by means of eletric chainsaws, or by
attaching a thick steel chain between two tractors, which pull the chain
in tandem, and uproot any sizeable tree after their passage. When the
timber is felled and avaliable, some brick ovens are made, without
openings, in order to burn the wood slowly in a room with almost no
oxygen, therefore "baking" it into charcoal. The contractors then sell
the product of the entire operation to the landowner, or to the
steelmill, to be used in making pig iron.

Technically, the family of charcoal makers is a contractor that sells a
commodity - the charcoal. But, as the only existing demand is the demand
of the landowner itself, and the charcoal cannot be taken out of the
land without his/her permission (and of course such a quantity of
charcoal is not easily disposable), the family is, of course, a group of
desguised wage-earners, that sell charcoal at prices set by the
landowner. They have no insurance, no social security, and are not
covered by the laws against child labour and about work health and
security. To cover their daily needs with the less possible cost, these
"contractors" have to use the cheapest mechanical tools (decerpit
tractors, used chainsaws, etc. ) and to exploit ruthlessly the avaliable
reserve of labour - that is, child labour. Therefore a lot of children
up from 6 years old laying bricks and/or throwing wood into the ovens -
always no less then three ovens, 2meter high, slowly burning and
creating a vulcanic athmosphere of grey (and of course toxic, whem
inhaled for a long time)smoke; something like chain-smoking in a 24 hs.
per daily basis.

To put into a nutshell, this kind of child labour is a by-product of
*deregulamentation of labour relations* - something I do not seem the
ideologues of the imperialist governments like Clinton's to oppose...Of
course that is no excuse for the fact that the Brazilian gov., not
wanting to meddle with the landowners, has done nothing whatsoever
against it but for some very limited schemes of paying a monthly
allowance of some U$ 25 [R$50] to each family selected that sends a
child to school attendance; these schemes, however, are done only on a
local basis and are still considered as experimental.

The problem is that we have hear a general mode of capital accumulation
worldwide, something that can be not solved by pious protests and faked
indignation.

Carlos Rebello









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