Workers who guaranteed drinks to people attending a multi-million dollar music festival filled with renowned artists were rescued from slave labor. They were subjected to degrading conditions and were hired with misleading promises of dignified service.
The above account could serve for the five who carried drinks to supply the thirst of Lollapalooza goers and were rescued from conditions similar to those of slavery this week. But it also fits to describe the life of the 93 rescued who sold beer and soda to Rock in Rio goers in September 2013.
Almost ten years separate the two cases, which were not the only ones involving large music festivals with thousands of visitors paying hundreds or thousands of reais for tickets.
And, contrary to what happened with wineries like Aurora, Garibaldi and Salton, in the case of the 207 rescued in Bento Gonçalves (RS), there were no major campaigns preaching the boycott of Lollapalooza on social networks.
Even though, days later, labor inspectors returned to the concert venue, the Interlagos Circuit, in São Paulo, and found that around 800 employees of the festival’s bars had their rights “seriously violated”.
Beers, soft drinks and chips
In the case of Rock in Rio, in 2013, the Ministry of Labor and Employment appointed the Bob’s fast food chain as responsible for the enslaved workers. According to the inspection, they were housed in places without the minimum conditions of dignity and were forced to contract debts to pay the credential and be able to work.
To fill the vacancies, Bob’s used the company To East, which, in turn, subcontracted 3D Eventos. At the time, the network denied to Repórter Brasil that the case was related to slave labor, stating that it was “at the disposal of the competent authorities to continue providing all necessary clarifications” and offered to sign a conduct adjustment term in solidarity.
After the characterization of the crime, the organization of Rock in Rio said that “the hiring of employees is the responsibility, signed in a contract, of the operators of bars and snack bars” and that, “on becoming aware of the accusations, Rock in Rio entered into contact the company immediately, in this case Bob’s, so that it would take the necessary measures”.
A similar justification was given, two years later, when inspections rescued 17 people from conditions similar to those of slavery again at Rock in Rio. In the 2015 edition, slave labor was found in the sale of french fries by street vendors from the Batata no Cone company, within the festival.
According to the Ministry of Labor, workers spent more than they received to work at the site. Daily earnings were outweighed by expenses with accommodation, medical examinations, transport, food, and even potatoes that were not sold at the end of the day and had to be reimbursed to employers.
The organization of Rock in Rio informed, at the time, that “it has no responsibility for hiring professionals from other companies to work in the City of Rock”. The note also said that “it works in accordance with Brazilian legislation and regrets that this is not the procedure adopted by other companies”.
outsourcing of responsibility
In the most recent case of Loolapalooza, five workers who worked in the preparation of the event were rescued, last Tuesday (21), three days before the shows started. As Gil Alessi, from Repórter Brasil, revealed, they worked 12-hour shifts a day as beverage carriers and were subjected to degrading conditions.
“After taking crates and boxes back and forth, we were still forced by the management to stay in the warehouse tent, sleeping on top of cardboard and pallets, to watch over the cargo”, said one of the rescued. Workers reported that they were threatened with dismissal if they tried to leave after hours.
Rafael Neiva, labor inspector who participated in the operation, carried out by the Regional Superintendence of Labor in the State of São Paulo, says that they “did not receive toilet paper, mattresses, protective equipment, nothing”.
The five rescued provided services to the company Yellow Stripe, a third party contracted by Time 4 Fun, known as T4F, owner of Loolapalooza in Brazil.
In a statement, the festival said that “it is strictly prohibited by T4F” for workers to sleep on site, a fact that led to the “immediate termination of the legal relationship established with Yellow Stripe”. He also said that he considers this an isolated fact, vehemently repudiates it and will continue with a strong stance in the face of any non-compliance with rules by outsourced companies”.
Yellow Stripe, on the other hand, informed that it “complied with the determinations of the Ministry of Labor, and the employees in question were duly hired and remunerated”.
Despite the event’s organizer stating that this was an “isolated fact”, workers have already reported unacceptable working conditions. Father Júlio Lancelotti, coordinator of the Pastoral do Povo de Rua, reported that homeless people received R$50 per day for 12-hour days in order to carry equipment to set up Lollapalooza in April 2019.
A report by Folha de S.Paulo points out that, in March 2018, Pastoral already asked the Public Ministry of Labor to investigate charging companies at the service of another edition of the festival for the same practice.
“Although today it is possible to outsource core activities, which did not bring the promised generation of jobs, but precariousness and slave labor, the law provides for the direct responsibility of contractors for the health and safety conditions of outsourced workers”, says Maurício Krepsky , head of the Inspection Division for the Eradication of Slave Labor (Detrae) of the Ministry of Labor and Employment.
“And this is being applied by the Labor Inspection in the most recent cases of slave labor”, he says.
The fact is that because they do not suffer the same social and legal pressure as wineries in Rio Grande do Sul, festival organizers feel more comfortable not taking responsibility for the working conditions in their facilities. That is, the attractions are renewed at each edition, but the human rights situation remains the same.
Slave labor today in Brazil
The Lei Áurea abolished formal slavery in May 1888, which meant that the Brazilian State no longer recognized that someone owned someone else. However, situations persisted that turned people into disposable work instruments, denying them their freedom and dignity.
Since the 1940s, the Brazilian Penal Code provides for the punishment of this crime. These forms are called contemporary slave labor, contemporary slavery, conditions analogous to those of slavery.
According to Article 149 of the Penal Code, four elements can define contemporary slavery here: forced labor (which involves curtailing the right to come and go), debt servitude (a bondage linked to debts, often fraudulent), degrading conditions (work that denies human dignity, putting health and life at risk) or exhausting hours (leading the worker to complete exhaustion given the intensity of exploitation, also putting his health and life at risk).
Since the creation of special mobile inspection groups, the basis of the system to combat slavery in the country, in May 1995, more than 60,000 workers have been rescued and R$ 127 million paid to them in amounts owed.
Denouncements of slave labor can be made confidentially in the Ipê System, a system launched in 2020 by the Labor Inspection Secretariat (SIT) in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO). Official data on the fight against slave labor are available on the SIT Slave Labor Radar
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