Government yet to pay out any compensation to workers with garnished wages

Photo: Anderson Riedel/PR

The Brazilian government has yet to spend any of the roughly BRL 51.64 billion earmarked to compensate workers for partial wage cuts, according to the National Treasury’s Covid-19 spending tracker. These funds have been put aside to support workers after a provisional decree allowed companies to suspend contracts or reduce hours and wages by up to 70 percent over a space of 90 days. By Monday morning, the Economy Ministry’s website reported that 3.8 million jobs had been affected by the measure, which aims at avoiding definitive lay-offs. The ministry is hoping that 8.5 million jobs will be preserved.

The discrepancy between what has been promised and what has been paid may be a reflection of changes made to the decree in the Supreme Court, as Justice Ricardo Lewandowski initially determined that individual agreements must be validated by trade unions before taking effect, adding another layer of bureaucracy to what was intended as an emergency measure. On April 17, the Supreme Court revoked Justice Lewandowski’s ruling and maintained the original wording of the decree.

Health overlooked in pandemic spending

The Treasury data also shows that only BRL 56.5 billion has been spent to fight Covid-19 so far, a fraction of the BRL 226.8 billion dedicated to combating the pandemic. Of this total, a mere BRL 5.3 billion has gone directly to the Health Ministry — less than 10 percent of total spending amid the worst pandemic in a century. Meanwhile, the Citizenship Ministry — which is in charge of paying emergency aid to workers and the Bolsa Família program — has been benefitted the most, receiving BRL 32.6 billion so far.