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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Paraguay

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Paraguay, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661eca.html [accessed 13 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: 6,300,000
Capital: Asunción
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Strategies were frequently deployed to prevent the formation of trade union organisations during 2010, especially in the urban transport and maritime industries. Thousands of workers were affected by trade union rights violations in the metal, banking and meat sectors. The labour legislation does not encourage trade union activities.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Despite initial guarantees, a number of restrictions apply to trade union rights. The Constitution allows both private and public sector workers to form and join unions. However, the procedures for registering a union are cumbersome, and an inordinate 300 workers are needed to form an industrial union. Employers can also file a writ opposing the registration of a union. Furthermore, members of a union must belong to the respective occupation, and candidates for trade union office must work in the company and be active members of the union. Workers may not be members of more than one union either. Union activities are also restricted by the requirement that trade unions comply with all requests for consultations or reports from the labour authorities. While the law protects workers against anti-union discrimination, there are few genuinely dissuasive sanctions and the labour courts are not obliged to order the reinstatement of unfairly dismissed trade unionists.

Finally, the right to strike is guaranteed in law, but all strikes must be directly and exclusively linked to the workers' occupational interests.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: President Fernando Lugo's administration has encouraged social dialogue and has opened the way for better relations between the unions and the government. A number of unions backed a proposal to promote the creation of a Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, but met with difficulties winning support for the initiative in Congress from sections of the government and the opposition.

The employment situation continues to be characterised by the sheer magnitude of the informal economy and the poverty wages – 60% of private sector workers earn less than the minimum wage. In 2010 the implementation of the tripartite agreement on decent work was launched. Trade union centres from Paraguay and Brazil signed a trade union cooperation agreement to protect the rights of Paraguayan workers migrating to Brazil.

Trade union rights violated at ACEPAR steelworks: The Acepar workers' union SITRAC (Sindicato de Trabajadores de Acepar) staged a strike on 23 April to demand respect for their collective agreement and better safety conditions. The peaceful strike was violently suppressed by state security forces whilst the company recruited new staff to replace the striking workers. Meanwhile, the government ordered the arrest of the trade union leaders Hugo González Chirico, Hugo Cardozo, Mariano Velázquez and Daniel Ibarrolla on charges of disturbing the peace. The labour dispute continued throughout the year. In August, the Constitutional Court of the High Court of Justice, showing no regard for trade union rights, declared the strike illegal, placing 750 workers at risk of being dismissed.

Obstacles to formation of maritime workers' union SOMUPA: On 15 October, maritime workers founded a union, SOMUPA (Sindicato de Obreros Marítimos Unidos del Paraguay), to demand that shipping companies put an end to the ill-treatment and abusive labour practices, that they pay decent wages and overtime, and provide employment contracts guaranteeing their rights. Just after the union was founded, a number of companies in the sector launched a campaign of intimidation, drawing up blacklists and carrying out dismissals to pressure workers to leave the union. The Labour and Justice Ministry then retracted its decision regarding the temporary registration of SOMUPA on 10 November, claiming that it was made outside of the legal deadline of 30 days, without duly notifying the union.

Anti-union practices at Banco Regional S.A.E.C.A.: Since the merger in November 2009 of the Banco Regional-Rabobank and ABN-AMRO Bank, the new Banco Regional has carried out a multitude of illegal actions, including breaches of the collective agreement on working conditions, the persecution of executive union members and ordinary members supporting union actions, as well as the use of violence in the form of moral and labour coercion. In addition, José Bareiro Gulino, a member of the ABN-AMRO Bank employees' union was dismissed on 19 October. The bank claimed that he was dismissed to meet restructuring requirements, yet it continues to hire new staff, raising serious doubts as to its real motives.

Anti-union practices and breaches of collective agreements: In February, the workers at Frigoríficos Neuland formed a union. The company instantly dismissed the union leaders. The workers' unions at the Frigomerc and Friasa meat companies staged an extended strike between October and November to demand respect for the collective agreement and an end to the attacks on their trade union rights. Miguel Zayas Martínez and Jorge Alvarenga, general secretaries of the national trade union centres CNT (Central Nacional de Trabajadores) and CUT (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores), carried out hunger strikes in solidarity with the affected workers.

Obstacles to the formation of unions in the transport sector: Transport companies operating lines two and seven in the city of Mariano Roque Alonso, Central Department, were not hiring the workers involved in the activities to set up a union. Similarly, workers employed on line 59 in the city of Capiata, Central Department, were dismissed after forming a union. The company subsequently agreed to reinstate them following union action.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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