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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Ecuador

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 - Ecuador, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd889533f.html [accessed 27 December 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: 14,400,000
Capital: Quito

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: 10

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

The lack of social dialogue in the public sector manifested itself once again in 2011, resulting in the dismissal of thousands of workers. Casualisation is still being used as a tactic to prevent union organising. Child labour continues to be widely exploited in Ecuador.

Background

A referendum was held in Ecuador on 7 May 2011, seeking approval for a range of constitutional reforms regarding the judicial system, security, the environment, banking and the media. The reforms were approved, paving the way for changes such as the dissolution of the Judicial Council, a highly controversial judicial body, and the setting up of a transitional body in its stead, which will be composed of five members, one of whom will be directly appointed by the president. A council of officials in charge of regulating the content of television, radio and the press will also be created. This new body could, in practice, represent an obstacle to freedom of the press.

There was growing opposition in 2011 to the increase in mining projects operated by big multinationals. Discontent was voiced over the lack of scientific rigour in the environmental impact studies and the failure to address the indigenous peoples' demands regarding the right to prior consultation, granted to them by the constitution in force.

Trade union rights in law

Despite recent improvements, many excessive restrictions apply to trade union rights. The 2008 Constitution guarantees workers' right to organise, however it also limits this right in the public sector by establishing that only one organisation can represent state employees. The membership threshold for forming a union is excessive, and the union has no role in an establishment where a works council has more members than the union. In addition, only nationals may hold union leadership posts, and the Constitution restricts the re-election of union leaders.

Furthermore, while the right to collective bargaining is recognised, minority unions are not allowed to negotiate, and workers covered by the Civil Service and Administrative Careers Act have no collective bargaining rights. Collective industrial disputes shall also, in all cases, be referred to conciliation and arbitration tribunals.

While the Constitution guarantees the right to strike, in the private sector strikes can only be called at the company or factory level. Solidarity strikes and boycotts are also restricted to a maximum of three days. In addition, any action that paralyses certain public services is prohibited, and public servants having participated in such activities can be dismissed. The law also imposes prison terms on people participating in illegal stoppages or strikes.

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

In practice

Government deploys anti-union practices in public sector: The government maintained a hostile approach to trade union rights, organisations and their leaders in the public sector, showing contempt for their demands, rejecting all calls for social dialogue and negotiations to set working conditions, and making mass dismissals.

Tactics to stop organising and collective bargaining: Employers used a whole range of tactics to stop workers from attempting to organise and bargain collectively, such as not declaring their employees to the social security administration. Undeclared workers are not officially recognised as permanent employees and do not therefore have the right to organise.

Sluggish legal proceedings: All labour disputes are referred to conciliation and arbitration tribunals. The proceedings in courts of first instance are long and protracted, given the elaboration and /or clarification requirements. The disputes are then referred to courts of second instance, which are mired in red tape and take over four years to deliver a ruling.

Casualisation used to stop organising and collective bargaining: Both public and private employers deployed tactics such as labour subcontracting and the promotion of management-controlled "solidarista" associations to limit the exercise of the right to organise and collective bargaining. In addition, temporary employees are not covered by the Labour Code and do not therefore have the same level of protection or trade union rights as other workers.

Child labour in Ecuador: Although child labour is prohibited by law, it is a problem that extends across the country, including in its worst forms. The government is making a serious effort to eradicate it. The figures for 2011 nonetheless reveal that an estimated 367,000 minors aged between five and 14 years are working illegally.

Violations

Mass dismissals without negotiation in the public sector: On 28 October 2011, the government laid off 3,029 public sector workers from all occupational segments and levels across the country, without following the legally established administrative procedures and without any dialogue with the workers or their trade union organisations. In many cases, the announcement of the dismissals was accompanied by hostile offensives by members of the security forces and the Labour Relations Ministry.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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