Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bolivia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bolivia, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 11 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: 9,900,000
Capital: Sucre
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Anti-unionism was behind many of the dismissals in the mining and media industries, giving rise to strikes and stoppages throughout 2009. Various private sector companies made layoffs, claiming they were unable to pay the wage increase decreed by the government. The right to form unions and the exercise of the right to strike are hampered by excessive restrictions. The authorities are allowed to interfere unduly in trade union activities.

Trade union rights in law

The 2009 Constitution improves the protection of trade union rights, however many excessive restrictions remain in the law. While workers enjoy freedom of association, the General Labour Act, dating back to 1942, requires prior government authorisation to establish a union and permits only one union per enterprise. Industrial unions need the support of at least 50% of the workforce in order to be established, and no union may join an international organisation.

Public servants, with some exceptions, are denied the right to organise and to bargain collectively, which is also the case for some categories of agricultural workers. Furthermore, there are restrictions on union internal affairs, as members of the executive boards must be Bolivian by birth, and labour inspectors can attend union meetings and monitor union activities. A trade union can also be dissolved by administrative means.

While the right to strike is guaranteed in the Constitution, all strikes must be supported by three quarters of the workers. Strikes in public services, including banks and public markets, are banned by law, as are general strikes and solidarity strikes. Compulsory arbitration may also be imposed to end a strike or collective dispute in sectors that are not considered essential by the ILO. Finally, workers who participate in an unlawful strike may be sentenced to prison terms of one to five years, with forced labour as an additional punishment.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Bolivia's new Constitution was enacted on 7 February by President Evo Morales, following its approval in a referendum by 61.43% of the electorate. The referendum also secured support for limiting land ownership to 5,000 hectares per citizen.

The electoral climate was quite intense throughout the year. President Evo Morales was re-elected for a five year term on 6 December. His Movement for Socialism party (MAS) also won a two-thirds majority in the new Plurinational Assembly (130 deputies and 36 senators). The president announced the creation of a new democratic and "indigenist" Bolivian state.

Anti-union dismissals at Full Televisión: In May, Full Televisión Canal 39 fired the executive members of the union being formed at the company. The workers were demanding the payment of arrears in wages and benefits, as well as the rise in the minimum wage set by the government.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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