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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Argentina

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Argentina, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cb0424.html [accessed 30 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: 40,677,348
Capital: Buenos Aires
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

A Supreme Court ruling questioned the trade union monopoly in the public sector. There were disputes in the education sector and security forces attacked teachers trying to set up a tent in front of the government headquarters in Buenos Aires. The case of Miguel Hugo Rojo remains unsettled despite the recommendation of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: Under the Constitution, workers have the right to join and form free and democratic trade unions, which are recognised once they have been entered in a special register. All workers, with the exception of military personnel, are free to join and form craft or trade unions, without prior authorisation, at industry, company or branch level. Two or more unions may establish a federation, and two or more federations may establish a confederation. The collection of union dues by means of the check-off system is mandatory by law.

Trade unions are regulated by Law 23551 on Trade Union Associations, which was adopted in 1988 and places numerous restrictions on the exercise of freedom of association and other trade union rights. Only one trade union – the most representative one – in a given industrial sector and within a specific geographical region can have official trade union status (personería gremial). To qualify for this official status, a trade union must: a) be officially registered and have been operating for at least six months; (b) have a membership covering not less than 20 per cent of the workers it intends to represent, and (c) be the most representative trade union in the relevant industry or branch, within a given geographical area (generally a city or province, though in some cases, the whole country). Only unions with this status are entitled to collect union fees by means of deduction from the wages and to obtain legal protection for their leaders. Over the years, the ILO has repeatedly reminded the government that unions classed as the most representative should not be granted privileges that go beyond a priority in the area of collective bargaining, consultations with the authorities and the appointment of delegates to international organisations.

Supreme Court ruling against trade union monopoly: In a ruling that changes the trade union framework for public sector workers, the Supreme Court decreed that it is not necessary to be affiliated to a union with official status (personería gremial) to be elected as a trade union representative. In principle, the ruling will not be applicable in private companies. The Court declared Article 41 a) of Law 23551 on Trade Unions unconstitutional, as it affects workers' freedom of association. It indicated that the exclusivity the Article gives to trade unions with official status (personería gremial) affects workers' rights by demanding their affiliation as well as limiting the ability of unions without official status to exercise their right to represent their members. Freedom of association implies the right of workers to form unions without the need for prior authorisation.

Collective bargaining: The law allows collective bargaining at national, regional, provincial or company level, but precludes unions that have been registered but do not have official status (personería gremial) from these negotiations. In addition, Law 14250 stipulates that if a collective agreement is to be binding it must be approved by the Ministry of Labour, which aims to protect workers' interests by ensuring that the clauses of collective agreements do not weaken their rights as provided for under national law.

Right to strike: Article 14b of the Constitution guarantees the right to strike. However, the principle of "representation of collective interests", which the law attributes exclusively to unions with official status (personería gremial), applies to the right to strike, thereby denying this right in practice to registered unions without official status. Decree 272/06 of Employment Law 25877 established regulations on the right to strike in essential services, bringing it into line with ILO Convention 87. Article 2b of the decree states that a Guarantees Commission will be created to stipulate the minimum services to be provided in the event of a strike, although the Ministry of Labour will take the final decision on the minimum services needed when "the parties fail to reach an agreement" or "when the agreements prove insufficient". The Guarantees Commission on essential services has still not been created.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Argentina underwent a period of strong social and political polarisation in 2008, linked to the government's proposal to raise taxes on agricultural exports. This affected workers, most of whom accepted the government's proposal, although some supported the agrarian sector. The number of labour disputes seen during the year reached 367, a considerably higher figure than in 2007.

Miguel Hugo Rojo's case before ILO remains at a standstill: (See the 2004 and subsequent editions of the Survey) Miguel Hugo Rojo's case (no. 1867) before the ILO has still not been settled. The government has not yet complied with the recommendation of the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA), which dates back to 1998, indicating that Miguel H. Rojo, then General Secretary of the Salta province state employees' union, ATE, was unfairly dismissed. The CFA recommended that he be reinstated or compensated, but successive Argentine governments have so far ignored this. On 7 May, Rojo submitted a letter to the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, accompanied by a document recently sent to the CFA, with a view to reiterating his claim, given that 16 years have gone by and he has still not been given justice.

Trade union leader abducted in Buenos Aires: Pablo Micheli, the Deputy General Secretary of the trade union centre Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina (CTA), and General Secretary of the state employees' association, Asociación de Trabajadores del Estado (ATE), was abducted by a group of armed individuals who levelled threats against him and his family, insisting that he drop his trade union activities. The leader did not suffer any physical injuries but was held blindfolded and tied up for over two hours.

Violence against teachers in the capital: Hundreds of teachers from the two education unions, Unión de Trabajadores de la Educación (UTE) and Central de los Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina (CTERA), were attacked when trying to set up a tent in front of the government headquarters in Buenos Aires. The teachers were planning to hold a 100-hour vigil in front of the government building in support of their demands for a 20% pay increase, the reinstatement of grants for secondary school pupils, solutions to infrastructural problems and the freedom to join the health insurance scheme of their choosing. The security forces used force to stop them, however, claiming that they had not received administrative authorisation to install the tent. Among those injured were the CTERA's head of press, the director of a school in the Lugano district, the General Secretary of the CTERA and the CTA's Education and Training Secretary, Stella Maldonado.

Repeated attacks on CTA members in Buenos Aires Province: An affiliate of the CTA, the Movimiento Nacional de los Chicos del Pueblo, suffered repeated attacks, including an attack on its offices and assaults on its members. During each attack, the members were told to give up their trade union activities. The CTA lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Secretariat as well as demanding a meeting with the Minister of Justice and National Security.

Dismissals and intimidation of workers belonging to the SUTNA tyre union: Workers at the FATE, Bridgestone and Firestone tyre manufacturing plants, initiated a 48-hour stoppage on 24 July in support of their demand for a pay rise. The management immediately responded with the dismissal of 205 workers. The workers subsequently decided to hold an indefinite strike, which would be called off when the Labour Ministry imposed compulsory arbitration. The company offered a wage rise of 28%, which the employees accepted on condition that the dismissed workers be reinstated.

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