VW Group spied on Brazilian union activists in the 1980s, report says

Article by Christian A., on September 9, 2014

Volkswagen Group spied on several union activists in Brazil in the 1980s, providing sensitive information over wage demands and other private talks to its military dictatorship back then, Reuters reports, citing documents it has seen. According to the document, VW monitored in secret its own employees as well as prominent union leaders of the time – one of whom was Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who became the country’s president.

A special "truth commission," acting on the request of current president Dilma Rousseff, discovered the documents in government archives while probing abuses that occurred during the 1964-1985 military regime in Brazil.

According to the commission's leaders, around 20 pages of documents marked "confidential" that VW submitted in 1983 and 1984 is a clear evidence that some companies went further in helping the military identify union activists in the 1980s in an aim to suppress labor unrest.

Through the documents, VW gave extensive accounts of over a dozen union meetings in Greater São Paulo, relaying workers' plans for strikes and their demands for higher salaries and improved working conditions.

VW likewise provided names of own workers attending union events, even noting the make and license plate numbers of vehicles present. The German carmaker also reported the showing of a socialist-themed film at a union headquarters as well as the contents of flyers distributed just outside its sites.

Sebastião Neto, a member of the National Truth Commission, says that such information were usually used by police to monitor, harass and detain activists as they aim to discourage future unrest. He remarked that the documents tell how companies were expecting the government “to help them solve their problems with their workers.” [source: Reuters.com]

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