Fired because of the coronavirus: Brazilians who were already unemployed with the pandemic – 26/03/2020


The first news about a new virus identified in China, months ago, did not concern caregiver Jaqueline De Nicola, 48.

“I thought I would never arrive here in Brazil, or at least that it would not cause so many problems”, he says. She confesses that she did not imagine that months later she would lose her job precisely because of the new coronavirus, now classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic.

“Suddenly, I was unemployed. It is being very difficult. I am completely devastated and without ground,” she reports to BBC News Brasil.

Until last week, Jaqueline worked as a caregiver for a student with severe autism at a state school in São Paulo.

It provided services to a third party company. The salary of R $ 1,200 was essential in the house where she lives with her husband, four children and one-year-old grandson, in Tatuí (SP).

Her husband, 55, has been unemployed since 2018. The only person with a permanent job in the family, currently, is a daughter of the couple, 19, who works in the computing area and receives about R $ 1,800. .

“The way now is to pray, because the bills keep coming. No one has suspended the payment of water, electricity or internet,” says Jaqueline, who spent most of Monday (23/03) crying, due to the resignation. “I don’t know what to do now,” he laments.

She says that at least 215 other people who also worked at the outsourcing company were fired. They were told they would be released through a WhatsApp message sent by the company, which said that the state of São Paulo had canceled the contract, as there was no provision for classes to return.

“As of March 23, the Government has informed us that it will not make any payment for the activity of caregiver. Due to this occurrence, unfortunately we are obliged to terminate the contracts immediately due to force majeure, also from the 23rd,” says the statement from the outsourced company, which promised to pay all the labor rights to the dismissed employees.

Unemployment and informality

Jaqueline is part of a group that, according to experts, is expected to grow exponentially in the coming weeks: that of dismissed due to the damage caused by Sars-Cov-2, as the new coronavirus is officially called.

In the last few days, Brazilian states have started to adopt actions such as suspension of classes, closing of bars and restaurants and cancellations of events to avoid agglomerations.

The measures are adopted to contain the spread of the virus, which has already infected more than 2,600 people in Brazil and killed 63 until this Thursday (26).

Similar measures were also taken in other countries facing an explosion of cases of the new coronavirus, such as Italy, Spain, France, Argentina and China – in this case the first cases in the world were registered.

For the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the world will take years to recover from the impacts of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The entity estimates that the economic shock is already greater than that of the financial crisis of 2008 or that of 2001, after the attacks of September 11 of that year.

In Brazil, data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), prior to the pandemic, pointed out that there were about 12 million unemployed. There were still approximately 38 million Brazilians in informal jobs.

For associations and experts heard by BBC News Brasil, the estimate is that unemployment data will grow significantly during and after the pandemic. The numbers, according to some experts, are expected to exceed 20 million unemployed.

Unemployment and uncertainty

Accounting technician Tatiane Marques, 41, was also hit hard by the crisis caused by the new coronavirus.

She had been working in the administrative sector of a restaurant for five months and was fired last week. “My ex-boss talked to the employees and explained that as he was going to close the restaurant, there would be no revenue and there would be no way to keep all the workers”, he reports.

In the State of São Paulo, Governor João Doria announced, on Saturday (21), the application of quarantine as of Tuesday (24). Establishments whose activities are not considered essential, such as bars and restaurants, must close their doors for at least 15 days – a period that may be extended.

Tatiane lives with her two children, one aged five and the other aged 15. To go to work in the São Paulo neighborhood of Morumbi, the resident of São Bernardo do Campo, in Greater São Paulo, spent more than two hours on public transport.

“The money I earned there was very important to me”, reports the woman, who received about R $ 2 thousand in her job. The amount, together with the alimony she receives from her ex-husband, was essential for her to be able to pay the household bills.

“It was sad to be fired. I was upset. I still didn’t have a formal contract. If I had been there longer and with the formal contract, I would be able to comply with notice and receive unemployment insurance. But it wasn’t like that. In my situation, I just received the severance payments and that’s it “, he says.

She says that two other boys, who also didn’t have a formal contract yet, were also fired. “They said that first the layoffs would start for those who were not yet registered, because they would not have so much burden”, he reports.

The other employees of the place still have an indefinite future. According to her, the restaurant owner did not want to transform the place into a delivery-only space, as was allowed by the São Paulo government during the quarantine. “He says he has no structure for that”, he points out.

The next few months are uncertain for Tatiane. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Besides, I can’t even leave the house, to avoid getting the virus,” he says. She is considering selling bread and snacks, at least for now, to earn extra income.

“Maybe I will try to do this around here, in the condominium where I live. But I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know what will be going on from here. It is even despairing to think”, he reports.

The Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants (Abrasel) estimates that of the 6 million employees connected to the sector in Brazil, half of them can be dismissed in the next 30 or 40 days, if the establishments remain closed.

In addition, the entity estimates that many informal workers, owners of their own business and who do not have employees, will also have difficulties and may close their doors.

“Bars and restaurants are among the largest employers in Brazil and the most affected by all of this. The other sectors, such as agriculture or construction, may recover more quickly. But our sector will have enormous difficulties. In addition, we have difficulties to obtain credits in Brazil “, declares Paulo Solmucci, president of Abrasel.

Solmucci comments that studies show that the food sector in countries like Europe and the United States has the capacity to hold up to 16 days with the doors closed. In Brazil, according to him, the situation is worse, since the sector in the country already faced a period of low.

“Our ability to resist is much less. In addition, more than 10 days ago sales started to drop a lot, because many people stopped going to establishments”, he declares. To reduce layoffs, he expects the federal government to create initiatives to assist bar and establishment owners during this period.

Accumulated debts

The closings of bars and restaurants also culminated in the unemployment of logistics technician Jonatas Almeida, 26. He worked at a beverage factory in São João de Meriti (RJ).

The boy, who was responsible for the local warehouse, was dismissed due to the drop in sales. “I was discharged on March 13th. One of the owners told me that he would be discharging for cutting costs,” he says.

According to him, other employees of the factory were also dismissed. “There was no more sale. The delivery truck was not leaving anymore”, he details. According to him, on Monday (23) the factory suspended activities.

Married, Jonatas was responsible for supporting the house. The wife is also unemployed. He says he is very concerned about the situation, as he has debts to pay by the end of this year.

“I had renovated our house and everything was in installments, counting on my salary”, says the boy, who received about R $ 1.3 thousand.

He worked at the company since August 2019. Now, he plans to withdraw the FGTS to help pay part of the debts. Having resorted to unemployment insurance in March last year, when he left his previous job, he was unable to access the benefit this time.

“I think the federal government should change the rules of this insurance and reduce the criteria at this point, because it is an atypical situation. This would help those who have become unemployed,” he says.

In the Chamber of Deputies, a Bill provides for the provision of unemployment insurance, allows the anticipation of holidays and postpones the payment of employer tax and contributions during the state of public calamity, decreed due to the new coronavirus.

In the text, which is currently under analysis, unemployment insurance must be granted to workers who are dismissed without just cause and can prove employment in the six months prior to dismissal. In this scenario, Jonatas could claim the benefit.

After the resignation, the young man started to send resumes to several places. Last week, he participated in two selection processes. “I went to the bus job interviews, but always with alcohol in my hands to clean myself,” he says.

He says that he did not want to leave home at a time when coronavirus cases are growing more and more – the State of Rio de Janeiro is the second with more records in the country. “But I have no option, I need to go after a job,” he says. To date, he has yet to receive responses from companies.

‘Catastrophic scenario’

Another sector that also foresees mass layoffs is that of stores. The Brazilian Association of Satellite Shopkeepers (Ablos) estimates that about 4 million people working in the area may be unemployed, as almost all shopping centers in the country have closed their doors indefinitely in recent weeks.

“The scenario is catastrophic. We don’t know how long the malls and street businesses will be closed. People will be out of work. The population will become poor,” says Angelo Augusto de Campos, a member of the Ablos board and owner of a clothing store chain with around 350 employees.

“A lot of people think that the merchant does not have any money. But it is not true, mainly because malls have annual rent adjustments, even if sales do not increase. It is a complicated situation”, he says.

He reports that he kept the employees’ jobs, despite having closed all the chain’s stores. “We want to insure employees, because they are aware that they will have no source of income if we put them on the streets. Most Brazilians have no financial reserve,” he says.

“We, shopkeepers, need urgent help. The federal government needs to help us in some way. How will it be up there? Everyone will be broken,” says Campos.

The strategy of retaining employees, even in the midst of difficulties, is pointed out by specialists as the best way to avoid further damage to society in general.

“There is the so-called social function of the company. Firing an employee may even solve a problem for that boss momentarily. But this, in society, has a very bad impact. It increases the level of unemployment and stress”, declares João Batista Berthier, attorney Chief of the Public Ministry of Labor (MPT) of Rio de Janeiro.

“Perhaps, at this stage, things can be resolved if the entrepreneur looks at this issue with solidarity. In this moment of crisis, the best strategy is collective bargaining. It is important to talk to employees or unions for a broader solution”, Berthier points out.

Among the strategies that can be adopted during this period to prevent mass layoffs, according to Berthier, are telecommuting, early vacations or reduced working hours and wages. “These are less costly alternatives that benefit both sides”, he points out.

If the worker understands that he has had any rights harmed by the company, he can go to court.

Berthier points out that the legislation allows dismissals without just cause, as long as the employer notifies in advance, allows the withdrawal of funds and grants the employee labor rights.

“But what about the social function of the company at the moment? We are facing a very serious crisis. In this situation, the employer uses the power to place the burden on the worker. The burden needs to be divided for both sides. If the crisis there is, the sacrifice needs to be divided “, he says.

Many companies, however, claim that they do not have the financial means to retain employees during the closing period. In this way, they opt for dismissals without trying to reach agreements so that they can keep their jobs.

Bolsonaro’s measures

Last week, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he would allocate R $ 15 billion over the next three months to distribute among informal workers, unemployed and individual microentrepreneurs (MEIs) that integrate low-income families. Emergency assistance is R $ 200 per month.

The amount must be granted to people who do not have a formal contract and do not receive other benefits, such as Bolsa Família or unemployment insurance. The Ministry of Economy says the measure should reach 20 million people.

The project is under analysis in Congress.

The federal government still plans a Provisional Measure – which needs to be carried out by Congress within 120 days – to allow the reduction of wages and working hours by up to 50%. According to the Ministry of Economy, the main objective is to maintain jobs in the country.

According to a survey carried out by researchers from the Fiscal Policy Observatory of the Brazilian Institute of Economics (Ibre / FGV), the Bolsonaro government’s measures to contain the impact of the coronavirus in Brazil are “far below what was announced in other countries”.

The survey carried out by the organization, published in a BBC News Brasil report on Tuesday (24), pointed out that initiatives announced by the federal government – such as anticipating the 13th salary of INSS pensioners and retirees, temporary reduction of taxes for companies, expansion of Bolsa Família program, new resources for the Ministry of Health and transfers to States and municipalities – add up to about 4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In Germany, for example, government spending to tackle the coronavirus crisis reached 37% of GDP on Monday (03/23), with the announcement of yet another € 800 billion package (about R $ 4, 4 trillion).

“These measures adopted by Bolsonaro are very timid in the face of a crisis of great magnitude. The country will need more government stimulus for economic growth”, evaluates Bruno Ottoni, a researcher at IDados and Ibre-FGV. He believes that if the president does not prepare measures that better serve the population, the situation during and after the pandemic will be tragic.

“It will become a social chaos. At the moment, we are only looking at the issue of health. It makes perfect sense to isolate the home to prevent public health calamity. But if the government does not understand the problem, as it does not seem to understand, there will be a situation of widespread breakage. Many will not have food on the table “, he says.

He estimates that up to 40% of the Brazilian population may be unemployed during or shortly after the coronavirus advances.

Ottoni points out that with the approval of the state of public calamity, which authorizes the federal government to fail to meet its fiscal target set out in the Budget Law, the federal government should focus on a structured program focused on vulnerable groups. “This will be fundamental to avoid social chaos due to the pandemic”, says the expert.

The cases

The first record of the coronavirus in Brazil was on February 24. A 61-year-old businessman, who lives in São Paulo (SP), was infected after returning from a trip, between February 9th and 21st, to the Italian region of Lombardy, the most affected in the European country that has more cases outside China.

According to the Ministry of Health, the 61-year-old businessman had symptoms such as fever, dry cough, sore throat and runny nose. His relatives started to be monitored. Days later, examinations showed that a person linked to the patient also had the new coronavirus and transmitted the virus to a third person. All remained quarantined in their homes for a period of at least 14 days.

After the first case, several other records started to be made in Brazil. Many came from countries with numerous cases of the new coronavirus, but later cases of local and, finally, community transmission were recorded.

Two weeks later, it was announced that the 61-year-old businessman is cured of the disease caused by the new coronavirus.


The main recommendation of health professionals who monitor the outbreak is simple, but quite efficient: washing your hands with soap after using the bathroom, whenever you get home or before handling food.

Ideally, rub your hands for between 15 and 20 seconds to ensure that viruses and bacteria are eliminated.

If you are in a public environment, for example, or with a large crowd, do not touch your mouth, nose or eyes without first washing your hands or cleaning them with alcohol. The virus is transmitted by air, but also by contact.

It is also important to keep the environment clean, sanitizing surfaces such as furniture and cell phones with disinfectant solutions.

To clean the phone, you can use a solution with about half of water and half of alcohol, in addition to a clean cloth.

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