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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Uruguay

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 - Uruguay, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
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: 3,477,778
Capital: Montevideo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Changes have been introduced to improve the protection of contract labour. In 2009 legislation such as the collective bargaining law will come under discussion, hopefully resulting in a significant change to industrial relations. There was an increase in the number of labour conflicts in 2008, however, compared to the previous year.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The Constitution recognises freedom of association and recognises the right to strike as a trade union right (art. 57). The law promotes the formation of trade unions and protects trade union leaders and negotiators against discrimination at the workplace. The law leaves it to the judiciary – through mechanisms for the protection of individual rights – to define when an act is discriminatory and should be revoked. In the event of dismissal, the dismissed worker should be reinstated in his or her job, as is the case across the region and the world. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to put in place the tripartite consultative and supervisory mechanisms to oversee the application of this law. Civil servants, employees of state enterprises and workers in private enterprises may affiliate to trade unions. Trade union membership is higher in the public sector (over 42%) than in the private sector (approximately 10%).

In accordance with article 57 of the Constitution of the Republic, article 1 of ILO Convention 98 and with sections a) and b) of article 9 of the MERCOSUR Social and Labour Declaration, Law 17940 on Freedom of Association prohibits all acts of discrimination aimed at undermining freedom of association.

Trade union discrimination: The law expressly prohibits anti-union discrimination. The law demands that employers rehire workers dismissed for their trade union activities and demands that employers pay compensation to those workers. The Collective Bargaining Department of the Ministry of Labour investigates claims of anti-union discrimination made by trade unionists. In general, there are effective mechanisms for resolving workers' complaints against employers.

The right to organise and to collective bargaining: The law allows trade unions to carry out their activities without interference, and the government protects this right and the right to collective bargaining. The Constitution provides for the right to strike.

Collective bargaining in the private sector: Collective bargaining is mainly carried out by branch of activity, regulating the minimum wage and working conditions for each category of workers in the Wage Councils. It is a tripartite mechanism, as the State intervenes through the Ministry of Labour, which is one of the negotiating parties on the Wage Councils.

A Law on Collective Bargaining in the Private Sector, which covers private sector workers in all branches of activity, including rural and domestic workers, is currently before the National Parliament.

Collective bargaining in the public sector covers all civil servants, divided into the following sectors: A) all Central Administration employees (the State in the strictest sense); B) all civil servants in the Autonomous Entities and Decentralised Services; C) civil servants in primary, secondary and university education institutions and the Labour University; D) civil servants working for the judiciary, with legal exceptions and reservations; and E) workers in the municipalities and in the country's territorial districts.

A Law on Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector is currently before Parliament, in line with ILO Conventions 151 and 154, establishing it as inherent to the labour relations system in the public sector.

Export processing zones: Labour legislation protects workers in the eight export processing zones. There are no trade unions in the zones, but the government does not prohibit their formation.

Protection: Law 18.251, modifying Law 18.099 on the protection of contract workers, was published on 17 January 2008. The changes related to the responsibility of employers, which changed from joint to subsidiary liability providing that the company using subcontractors ensured the respect of employment and social security obligations by the subcontractors, agencies or suppliers of labour. Law 18.099 also provided that employers could under no circumstances use the forms of sub-contracting referred to in order to replace workers on unemployment benefit, after a partial or full suspension of their employment, or involved in a dispute.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The government demonstrated its intention to regulate labour relations, opening a negotiating round with the social partners and promoting worker representation and participation. There is still a need to correct failures to comply with labour regulations and deal with disputes, particularly in the private sector, and there are demands for a greater social dimension at the national level. There was an increase in industrial disputes in 2008. In April, June and August, there were several nationwide hunger strikes, in almost all private sectors, in protest at the slowness of negotiations in the wage councils and in support of workers' demands.

Anti-union discrimination: Workers at the Fultrans company, which provides security services for the principal companies operating in the port of Palmira, went on strike at the beginning of the year to protest at various irregularities and demand better working conditions. The Nueva Palmira Inter-union Committee found that workers had their social security contributions withheld, when they were not paid into the Social Insurance Bank, a measure that also affected workers not fully registered as staff. The leader of the inter-union committee, Fernando Borolucci, said that there had been verifiable cases of anti-union repression, notably the dismissal of five workers because of their trade union membership.

Company ignores pay agreement: Twenty-nine employees at Molino Carmelo, affiliated to the Federation of Millers and Related Industries Workers and Employees Federation (FOEMYA), went on strike for two months, when the company failed to respect the minimum pay levels set by the National Pay Council. The company finally agreed to pay the amounts owed to the workers. The Ministry of Labour agreed to act as guarantor.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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