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Brazilian court freezes mass layoffs at Embraer
[February 28, 2009]

Brazilian court freezes mass layoffs at Embraer

(EFE Ingles Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sao Paulo, Feb 28 (EFE).- A regional labor court in Brazil has temporarily blocked aircraft manufacturer Embraer from laying off close to 4,300 workers amid the steep global economic downturn.

The ruling handed down Friday by the court in the southeastern city of Campinas, in Sao Paulo state, will be in effect until March 5, the date set aside for a conciliation hearing between the company and several unions that oppose the dismissals.

Three unions - including the Metalworkers Union of Sao Jose dos Campos, a city 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Sao Paulo where Embraer's headquarters are located - filed a collective lawsuit on the workers' behalf and secured the temporary freeze on the firings.

The unions want the tribunal to disallow the layoffs announced Feb. 19 by Embraer, a measure that affects 20 percent of the aerospace conglomerate's 21,362 employees.

Embraer, the world's fourth-leading aircraft maker, says the unprecedented crisis hitting the global economy, and the air transport sector in particular, has forced the company to trim costs.

According to the company, the cuts are necessary to adjust production to current demand for commercial and executive aircraft.

The aircraft maker issued a statement Friday in which it said the court's order suspending the layoffs "is preliminary and does not entail the restoration of the jobs to the dismissed persons," adding that the company will appeal the ruling because it "carried out such dismissals in strict compliance with all applicable laws and regulations." "Embraer reiterates its profound respect for the employees who were laid off, but once again emphasizes the need to adjust to the drastic reduction in demand for aircraft worldwide," the statement read.

In the lawsuit, however, the unions claim that the company has obtained significant earnings in recent years and could take other steps to adjust to the crisis without laying off staff.

Separately, some 300 workers on Friday demonstrated outside the company's headquarters to protest the layoffs and demand job stability, the president of the Metalworkers Union of Sao Jose dos Campos, Luiz Carlos Prates, said.

The picketing was part of a campaign to pressure the company ahead of Thursday's hearing.

The demonstrators carried coffins with Embraer's logo and signs calling on President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to nationalize the aircraft manufacturer, a formerly state-owned company that was privatized in the 1990s.

Lula met Tuesday with Embraer executives and requested that they provide financial assistance to the dismissed workers, but he did not call on the company to reinstate them because he understands that the problem is the drop in demand, Development, Industry and Trade Minister Miguel Jorge said that day.

For his part, Embraer President Frederico Fleury Curado said then that he will study Lula's request but noted that "the reason for the layoffs is outside Brazil" because 90 percent of the company's orders come from abroad.

General Motors Brazil and mining giant Vale previously announced that they were forced to lay off 800 and 1,300 employees, respectively. EFE joc/mc Copyright ? 2009 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.

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