The following open letter was issued by workers of the Hotel Transamérica chain in Brazil, who are putting out a series of demands to ensure their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are, through this letter, making public our indignation, which is doubtlessly shared by thousands of Brazilian workers who are forced to work in the current moment of crisis and pandemic. We work in the Transamérica hotel network, which operates throughout Brazil.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were no protective measures to prevent contagion, only vague guidelines for personal hygiene. It is known that, in one of the hotels in our chain, there was a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19). However, there was no reduction in our labour activities or in our rotas. Management still requires us to come to work, and we risk our lives by using transport which is always packed with people, despite the fact that hotel service is not considered essential. We all know about travel suspensions or postponements due to the outbreak.
Health agencies and the media have made it clear that we should be in quarantine, avoid crowds and stay at home. But how can we possibly comply when we are still obliged to work in order to pay our rent, support our families and put food on the table?
For this reason, it is necessary to respect the quarantine for at least 30 days with full pay, including benefits and no layoffs of employees. All employees considered at-risk should be sent home immediately and also receive full payment, including benefits. The company should also pay the treatment of every employee who contracts the disease, with all salary and benefits paid at 100 percent.
Faced with the situation described above, we contacted our union (Sinthoresp), which should be supporting us. However, they did nothing to fight for our rights in the current situation. On the contrary, they actually accepted – without any dispute – the decision made by the government, and issued by Bolsonaro, to cut four months of salary. This decision was partially revoked later.
The same situation of neglect is found in several other categories: from call centres to industry. Many around Brazil and around the world are forced every day to expose themselves to lethal contamination. The reality is that only a few privileged workers can work from home.
It is clear that the current government, employers and the rich just want to save themselves by passing the bill to workers and all the most vulnerable sectors of society. Trillions are earmarked to save banks and large corporations, as well as the best hospitals available to treat the disease, whereas workers are left to survive on very low wages – if they get any at all – risk their lives and going hungry.
We have to rely on our strength and make sure our collective voice is heard: we are the ones who actually produce goods and provide services. We cannot trust those who just want to profit at the expense of our lives.
We also support that these claims should be extended to all workplaces that have not yet interrupted their activities, not just hotels.
Please help us to disclose and disseminate this information!