Trade Union Forum



The Federative Republic of Brazil is a democratic state based on the principles of sovereignty, citizenship, human dignity, social values, free enterprise and political pluralism. The Constitution of 1988, with amendments of 1994 and 1997, is now in force. The country is composed of 26 states and the federal district of Brasília, the capital of the country.

Legislative power is vested upon the National Congress, a two-chamber legislature comprising the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate. Both exercise equal powers. A draft bill approved by the Parliament is sent to the President of the Republic for approval; if the head of State refuses to approve the law, the Congress can override the veto at a joint session of both chambers by a majority of votes of deputies and senators.

Senators in office must be at least 35 years old, and deputies must be at least 21 years old. Deputies are elected for a term of 4 years based on universal proportional voting. The voters do not vote for a particular party but for the candidates proposed by that party. The Federal Senate consists of representatives of the states and the Federal District. They are elected by a majority vote of the electorate in their constituency. Each federal subject is represented by 3 senators, elected for a term of 8 years. Every 4 years the representative office of a subject is renewed by one and two-thirds.

Participation in elections in Brazil is mandatory for literate citizens between 18 and 69. Citizens who are at least 16 years old are allowed to participate in the elections.

Executive power is exercised by the President and the Cabinet of Ministers. The President and Vice President must be at least 35 years old. They are elected in general elections for a term of 4 years from among the candidates nominated by officially registered political parties and coalitions. To be elected, it is necessary to have an absolute majority of votes (more than half of all those who voted). If necessary, a second round of voting is held with the participation of the two candidates who received the most votes. Since 1997, a second term re-election has been allowed.

The competence of the head of State includes the appointment and removal of ministers, the signing and publication of laws, the issuance of temporary statutes, the establishment of diplomatic relations and the signing of treaties, the issuance of decrees on the state of national defense, and the state of siege (these measures need Congress' approval). The President is the Commander-in Chief of the Brazilian Armed Forces, and has the power, when necessary, to impose a state of emergency and a state of siege, declare war, grant amnesty or commute sentences, and send development plans and budget drafts to Congress for consideration.

The advisory bodies of the President are the Council of the Republic (consists of a Vice-President, the heads of both Chambers, the parliamentary leaders of the majority and opposition, Minister of Justice and six famous citizens) and the National Defense Council (consists of the Vice-President, the heads of the Chambers and Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs, and Planning and Defense).

Congress has the power to remove the President from office. This requires a two-thirds vote of the members of the Chamber of Deputies (if the Federal Supreme Court charges the President with a criminal offense) or senators (if the President fails to perform his duties).

A national referendum may be organized by a decision of the Congress or on the initiative of citizens. To initiate it, it is enough to have 1% of the signatures of voters representing at least 5 states, with at least 0.3% in each of them. The same number of signatures is required to submit a law to the Parliament based on the legislative initiative of the people.

Trade unions

According to the article 159 of the Brazilian Constitution, the association of trade unions is unrestricted; the law regulates their formation, their legal representation in the conclusion of collective labor contracts, as well as the exercise of the functions entrusted to them by the state authority.

In 1985, President José Sarney signed the law on organization of the central trade union bodies. In 1990, several such organizations were founded. The most important ones were the Unified Workers' Central, closely associated with the Workers' Party. Other major trade unions are the União Geral dos Trabalhadores, affiliated to the Brazilian Democratic Movement, and Força Sindical.

According to the Constitution of 1988, all workers, employers and self employed professionals can be members of trade unions. Trade unions are organized into local and regional federations and, at the highest level, into a national confederation, and are closely supervised by the government. In addition, the Constitution proclaims a number of liberal provisions, including the freedom to form new trade unions, abolition of the subordination of trade unions to the Ministry of Labor, which acted as a head judge, and allows to reconcile the complex system of labor relations with the organizational principles of trade union construction. At the same time, such principles as the representation monopoly, the uniformity of trade union organizations, and the retention of regulatory functions for the system of labor commercial courts remained unchanged.

Labour relations

Labour relations are regulated in accordance with the Constitution of 1988 and the Labor Code of the FRB, which establishes such norms as the number of working hours, ensuring safe working conditions, social payments and pension contributions, compulsory leave, etc.

Trade unions participate in labour relations representing the interests of workers before the directors' board, improving the relationship between employees and the employer, coordinating the actions of workers in case of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs at the enterprise. For example, the dismissal of any employee who has worked for more than one year must be approved by the trade union; most employees have access to private health insurance programs provided by corporate employers and trade unions.

Brazil has been a member of the International Labour Organization since its founding on 28 June 1919. By 2021, Brazil has ratified 98 ILO conventions. Thus, labor legislation in Brazil is mostly in line with UN standards.