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Clothing Label M.Officer May Lose Its License Due to Slave Labour

11/10/2017 - 11h48

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PEDRO DINIZ
COLUMNIST AT FOLHA
JOANA CUNHA
FROM SÃO PAULO

Though the decision can still be appealed, the application of São Paulo state's anti-slave labour law could lead holding company M5 Têxtil, which owns clothing labels M.Officer and Carlos Miele, to lose the right to sell its products in the state of São Paulo for up to ten years.

The Ministry of Public Labour Prosecution indicted the company following an investigation that found that the working conditions at its affiliates were considered analogous to slave labour. M5 Têxtil would be the first company in the fashion industry to be slapped with such sanctions ever since the bill, which was authored by representative Carlos Bezerra Jr. (PSDB), was regulated in 2013.

Members of the 4th Regional Labour Court in São Paulo upheld the sanctions that were applied by the first instance court, including a R$ 4 million fine (US$ 1.2 million) for collective moral damages, as well as an additional R$ 2 million fine (US$ 613 thousand) for social dumping, which is when a company becomes more competitive by subtracting labour rights in order to make production costs cheaper.

Following a request made to freeze R$ 1 million (US$ 307 thousand) in company assets - the request was subsequently deferred by a labour court - the Ministry of Public Labour Prosecution filed a lawsuit in 2014 in which prosecutors asked for a R$ 10 million settlement (US$ 3.1 million), of which R$ 7 million (US$ 2.1 million) referred to collective damages, while R$ 3 million (US$ 1 million) referred to social dumping.

São Paulo's Ministry of Public Labour Prosecution called for the suspension of M5 Têxtil's ICMS license, a measure that is stipulated in the state's anti-slave labour bill. A panel of judges belonging to an appellate court issued its ruling last Tuesday (the 8th), opening the way for sentencing to start taking effect, even though no particular date has been defined. That is because the defense can still appeal the decision to the Superior Labour Court (TST), in an attempt to review the sentence that was applied. However, evidence pertaining to the case would not be reviewed at such a stage.

When approached for an interview, both M5 Têxtil - along with its owner, fashion stylist Carlos Miele - and its lawyers denied to comment. The company's press office told NGO Repórter Brasil that it would appeal the decision and it also used a PDF file to question the investigation conducted by prosecutors, as well as the evidence they brought forward.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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