Further modernizing and improving labor conditions in sugar and ethanol production were the main goals as executives and professionals from the Human Resources, Legal and Safety departments of São Paulo state sugarcane processing mills gathered at the “11th Labor Relations in the Sugar and Ethanol Industry Meeting,” promoted by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) on Setptember 17.
|More than 200 participants filled the auditorium at the Centro Empresarial Conceição (Conceição Business Center) in downtown Campinas, and heard praise from UNICA president Marcos Jank about the advances in labor relations, particularly those stemming from the National Commitment to Enhance Work Conditions in the Sugarcane Industry: “No other sector has strived so much, and in so little time, to improve working conditions and minimize the social impact of increased mechanization on manual sugarcane harvesting. We have gone beyond rhetoric and we are making it happen.”
(L-R) Marcos Jank, UNICA, and Elio Neves, Feraesp (Photo: UNICA)
Launched in June of 2009 in Brasilia, the National Commitment establishes a wide range of practical measures, which involve the adoption of the best labor practices that exist in the Brazilian sugarcane industry. Procedures covered in the Commitment involve the areas of health, safety, transportation and transparency in the measurement and payment of production.
Mechanization and Requalification
Besides coordinating the event in Campinas, UNICA’s Labor Affairs Consultant, Elimara Aparecida Assad Sallum, addressed the issue of sugarcane harvest mechanization and the impact that this change brings to labor relations. In the state of São Paulo, more than 60% of the sugarcane harvest is already mechanized, which eliminates the need to burn the leaves on sugarcane stalks, a procedure adopted to facilitate manual harvesting.
To prepare rural laborers still involved in manual harvesting for other jobs, inside or outside the sugarcane industry, a number of mills, in association with UNICA and in partnership with the Federation of Rural Worker of the State of São Paulo (Feraesp), launched Projeto RenovAçao in 2009. The initiative, sponsored by Syngenta, John Deere and the Case Group and with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), will retrain up to 7 thousand workers per year for new occupations.