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Brazil seizes Portuguese plane to pay embassy workers

Published on 04/01/2013

A Brazilian judge ordered the seizure of a plane from Portugal's TAP airline to help pay workers at the Portuguese Embassy here who had won a ruling against the diplomatic missions, lawyers said Friday.

TAP expressed surprise at the December 19 order, which was not made public until now, calling it “illegal,” and said that it had not been notified.

“TAP is a limited company whose ownership is private, and cannot vouch for the debt of its shareholders. This ruling appears to be an illegal situation,” the company said in a statement to AFP.

But regional Labor Court Judge Luize Fausto de Medeiros approved the seizure of the Airbus A330-200 aircraft last month, noting that “the Portuguese government owns all of its shares.”

Brazilian employees of the Portuguese Embassy, which in 2004 reached an agreement to regularize their employment status, filed a lawsuit in 2010 over a progressive reduction in their salaries that subsequently occurred.

The workers were paid in foreign currency converted into the Brazilian real, and were adversely affected by appreciation of the real.

“Some were earning about 6,000 real (equivalent to $3,000) at the time and today earn almost half of that,” the complaint said.

Although the plane seizure is an unusual form of compensation, it will be executed next week, according to the workers’ attorney Borges Rezende.