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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Paraguay

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 - Paraguay, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8892ec.html [accessed 18 September 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: 6,455,000
Capital: Asunción

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

Dismissals: 7

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Violations of freedom of association in the private sector persisted during 2011, especially in refrigeration, reforestation and oil companies. Mass anti-union dismissals were also seen in the public sector. Forced labour, particularly debt bondage, remained a serious problem and indigenous workers were the worst affected.

Background

President Lugo's government has successfully promoted social dialogue, as illustrated by the 14 dialogue structures now in place. Only 4% of workers, however, are covered by collective bargaining. The poverty rate is very high in Paraguay, where 49% of workers earn less than the minimum wage and 20% of women are employed in domestic work. The government is still working on the creation of the Labour Ministry in spite of continued difficulties securing support for this initiative from sections of the ruling party and the opposition.

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.

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

In practice

Negotiating difficulties at Esso Standard Paraguay: On 13 September 2011, workers at Esso Standard Paraguay formed a union with a view to signing a collective agreement establishing a pay review, given that wages have not been adjusted since 2007. The group was acquired by Bridas Corp in April 2011 and the new owners have blocked the negotiating process. The matter remains unresolved.

Forced labour in Paraguay: According to the ILO, thousands of indigenous workers are known to be working as bonded labour on the very remote, traditional cattle ranches of Bajo Chaco and Central Chaco. The bosses force them to buy basic necessities at exorbitant prices from the stores on the ranches and then pay them a derisory sum of money at the end of the year. The cattle ranches are manned by armed guards, who refuse access to labour inspectors in some cases. The government of Paraguay ordered inspections that confirmed these violations during 2011.

Violations

Anti-union dismissals at Social Action Secretariat (SAS): In January 2011, the Social Action Secretariat (SAS), attached to the Office of the President of the Republic, dismissed a large number of workers, members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores/as de la SAS (SITRASAS) for the most part, in a clear bid to crush the union. The Secretariat dismissed virtually all the members of the union executive, including representatives protected by trade union immunity.

Labour and trade union rights violations at IPFSA: In September 2011, workers at Industria Paraguaya Frigorífica (IPFSA), affiliated to SITRAIPFSA, denounced serious labour and trade union rights violations by the industrial refrigeration firm, which is constantly flouting minimum pay and overtime regulations, changing working conditions without prior notice and has unilaterally suspended the collective agreement, without any kind of punitive measures being taken by the labour authorities.

Anti-union dismissals at Grupo La Victoria: In November 2011, seven union representatives from the Grupo La Victoria workers' union Sindicato de Trabajadores del Grupo La Victoria S.A, in the Guajaivi district (San Pedro), were dismissed after joining the new union formed in October. The workers decided to stage a strike in protest at the dismissals, as well as at the failure to comply with payment obligations and the precarious occupational safety conditions resulting in a very high level of accidents at the company.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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