Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 11:37 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bolivia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bolivia, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 17 January 2018]
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

Child labour is still common practice in Bolivia. Excessive restrictions on the formation of trade unions and on the right to strike remain. The authorities are able to interfere unduly in trade union activities.


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.


Background: According to the UNDP, Bolivia made progress during the year in building a more equal society, principally thanks to advances in life expectancy and education, and in reducing extreme poverty. However, serious inequalities remain in terms of income distribution due largely to the high level of informal employment (about 75%) and low incomes for workers. The ILO also recognised progress at the institutional level, with regard to issues such as migration, forced labour and equal opportunities. Official figures put unemployment at 6.5%. Several groups within the country's political, trade union and academic circles question these figures and are concerned about the ever rising levels of informal employment.

The most serious industrial disputes concerned salaries and fuel price rises. The Bolivian Labour Centre (COB) held a national strike in May to call for better wages, and several protests and demonstrations over the price rises. A new pensions act was approved by Congress but some trade unions, including teachers and health workers, oppose this law. The Mineworkers' Trade Union Federation of Bolivia (FSTMB) was involved in extensive talks with the government on the new mining law.

Child labour at Canedo Constructions: The Bolivian authorities ordered the Canedo Construcciones company to pay a fine of 10,000 Bolivianos (about 1,000 euros) for employing ten minors in the construction of the Palmeto building in the city of Cochabamba. The children, working in different areas of construction, faced precarious employment and social security conditions and long working hours.

According to UNICEF and the National Institute of Statistics (INE) more than 800,000 children between the ages of seven and 13 were employed in 2010 and many worked more than 40 hours a week. The children were employed in the sugar industry, mines, particularly zinc mines, prostitution and other activities.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld