Bolsonaro Ally Scorns ‘Absurd’ Courts Over Vaccine Enforcement
(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian courts are violating individual rights by allowing employees who refuse to get vaccinated to be fired, said Labor Minister Onyx Lorenzoni, a close ally of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Vaccination is a personal, individual decision and something that should never be taken to a courtroom, Lorenzoni said in an interview in his office on Thursday.
“It’s absurd for the judiciary to break the constitutional principle of individual freedom,” he said.
As access to Covid-19 shots has ramped up in Latin America’s most populous country, where now more than 30% are fully vaccinated, businesses are more frequently reaching out to the judicial system to get permission to dismiss employees who refuse immunization. In December, the Supreme Court determined that the government could sanction people who refuse the shots, opening the door for labor courts to rule in favor of employers.
Lorenzoni is also working on a new framework for home office rules, he said, noting that while there has not been any litigation on the issue yet, “there’s going to be up ahead.”
Lorenzoni, who as a steadfast backer of the president has held multiple jobs in the current administration, took office a month and a half ago seeking to boost job creation in an economy where labor legislation is notoriously complex and bureaucratic.
He immediately faced resistance when Brazil’s senate rejected a bill that made several changes in labor legislation and made a job preservation program created during the pandemic permanent for pregnant employees.
There are around 8 million young people who at the moment are neither working nor looking for employment.
“We need to find a way to solve the problem of millions of Brazilians in informal jobs,” Lorenzoni said. “Lawmakers closed a door that was opening for the creation of more jobs.”
The so-called job preservation program may be relaunched even if just for pregnant women, he said.
“We have protected 2.6 million jobs this year, but 300,000 pregnant women who would have benefitted from it now have lost that chance,” he said.
The labor ministry was abolished by Bolsonaro in 2019 as a way to reduce the size of state, but recreated again with Lorenzoni. Previously the minister worked in the government as chief of staff, minister of citizenship, and secretary general of the presidency.
From January to July of this year Brazil created 1.5 million formal jobs; Lorenzoni expects to end the year with at least 2.5 million. For 2022, however, the minister avoids making an estimate. “In Brazil, we live month by month,” he said.
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