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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Argentina

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Argentina, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88968c.html [accessed 11 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 40,200,000
Capital: Buenos Aires

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: 1
Threats: 1
Injuries: 1
Dismissals: 321

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Employers in the oil and chemical industries were reluctant to negotiate with their workers' unions, or even recognise the unions. Unions in the soya exporting industry also faced collective bargaining difficulties. A transport company attacked and threatened the granddaughter of a union delegate, saying her granddad would be killed if he did not drop his union's demands. A telesales and technical support company dismissed 110 union activists.

Background

Presidential and legislative elections were held on 23 October. Open, simultaneous and mandatory primaries were held for the first time in the history of Argentina. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was re-elected with 54% of the vote, 38 points ahead of the candidate for the Frente Amplio Progresista (Progressive Broad Front) candidate, Hermes Binner.

The government declared 2011 the "Year of Decent Work, Health and Social Security for Workers" by means of Decree 75/2011. During the year the government pursued four main policy pillars: employment creation, rights at work, the extension of social protect and the promotion of social dialogue.

Trade union rights in law

Although basic trade union rights are guaranteed in law, certain issues exist. Under the Constitution, workers have the right to form and join trade unions without prior authorisation. However, only one union – the most representative one – in a given industrial sector and within a specific geographical region can have official trade union status (personería gremial), and the requirements for obtaining such status are excessive. While the law grants certain benefits solely to trade unions with official status, including the right to check off union fees and to protection for its leaders, the latter right was extended to representatives of all registered unions in a Supreme Court ruling in December 2009. In November 2008, the Supreme Court also ruled that it is not necessary to be affiliated to a union with official status to be elected as a trade union representative in the public sector.

Furthermore, while the right to bargaining is recognised, registered unions that do not have official status are precluded. The law also stipulates that collective agreements must be approved by the Ministry of Labour to become binding. In addition, the principle of "representation of collective interests" apply to the right to strike, thereby denying this right to unions without official status. The Ministry of Labour also takes the final decision on the minimum services needed during a strike when "the parties fail to reach an agreement" or "when the agreements prove insufficient".

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

New article: Thanks to the measures adopted in 2011 and in recent years, at least 86% of the population is now covered by the country's social security systems (both public and private). Similarly, the resumption of tripartite dialogue in the negotiations for the minimum wage led to an average 20% pay rise over the year. However the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern in its report on Argentina about the high number of workers still in the informal economy or employed as contract labour, earning lower wages than foreseen in local regulations and excluded from the social security systems.

Violations

Reluctance to negotiate in the oil industry: Workers from the Santa Cruz Private Oil and Gas Workers' Union went on strike in April 2011 to demand better working conditions in the companies in the industry. Workers from the oil companies based in the Argentinian provinces of Río Negro, Neuquén and La Pampa also stopped work in November 2011. They were calling on their companies (including YPF, Repsol, Total and Apache Corporation) to sign a collective agreement introducing pay rises for most of the staff, in response to the high level of inflation, which had reached 20% a year and was seriously affecting their incomes. The oil companies were consistently reluctant to negotiate with the union.

Anti-union practices at IBM Argentina: Workers at IBM complained that the company was trying to prevent the computer workers' union "Unión Informática". The workers presented a set of demands to improve their working conditions and to protest at the dismissal of 200 workers. The workers went on strike on 28 July 2011. They later submitted complaints against the management of the enterprise for threatening dismissals and penalties against those who had taken part in the strike.

Anti-union practices at the Micro Ómnibus Norte SA (Monsa) transport company: The 1,340 workers at the transport company Micro Ómnibus Norte S.A. (Monsa) organised a work stoppage in September after repeated violations of their rights by the company, including the non-payment of allowances, poor occupational health and safety conditions and a lack of recognition of their union delegation in its defence of the workers' interests. On bus line 60 the strike extended into the month of October in protest against attacks on the granddaughter of a delegate taking part in the negotiations, who was threatened and tortured, and told that her granddad would be killed if the workers did not drop their demands.

Eviction from and murder on ancestral land: Christian Ferreyra of the MoCaSe-Vía Campesina National Indigenous Peasant Farmers' Union was murdered when he tried to resist eviction from the land where he had lived in for all of his 23 years. He was murdered by killers hired by a soya grower from Santa Fé during a dispute over the ownership and distribution of land, which arose against the background of negotiations over the cultivation of ancestral land. The indigenous community had been complaining of attacks by the entrepreneurs for the past two years.

Anti-union practices in chemical companies:

Employees of 28 chemical companies in the Zárate and Campana region went on strike to demand improvement in their pay, the respect of collective agreements, and an end to the dismissals and persecution and the smear campaign against the workers' organisations by several companies in the industry.

Petrobas responded by suspending its activities at its Zárate plant. However the workers continued their strike at the other factories. The Ministry of Labour ordered compulsory conciliation. After the negotiations the union remained on a state of alert, ready to mobilise its members.

Collective bargaining proves difficult in soya exporting companies: In the last week of January 2011, workers in Rosario port district (lorry drivers, dockers, builders and security guards), one of the biggest grain terminals in the world, went on a strike that paralysed loading operations. The protest came to an end after compulsory conciliation was imposed. The strikers were calling for better pay, taking into account the fact that Argentina is the leading world export of oils and soya. Protests by dock workers continued throughout the year owing to the impossibility of negotiating effectively to put an end to unequal conditions between workers.

Multinational "Teleperformance" refuses to negotiate:

Workers at the Teleperformance multinational company which provides client services, technical support, telesales and payment collection services, decided to organise one hour stoppages each day in protest at their poor working conditions and management's refusal to negotiate.

On 7 January the company began to empty its Hipólito Irigoyen offices, asking workers to choose between "voluntary departure or moving to another location", which resulted in breaking up the organised workers. Subsequently, the company proceeded to dismiss 11 union delegates and activists, although they were later reinstated further to a decision of the internal committee. In April the company dismissed 110 workers for being "unproductive" and hired new staff with no history of trade union involvement. In July the company stopped attending the conciliation meetings organised by the Labour Ministry and in August it unilaterally decreed the suspension of all workers and the closure and liquidation of the company. As a result is was prosecuted for disruption.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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