Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Uruguay

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 - Uruguay, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 19 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: 3,369,000
Capital: Montevideo

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

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


The year 2011 was marked by labour disputes and violations of freedom of association in the public and private banking and health sectors. Collective bargaining rights were also violated in hospitals and in the private metal sector.


In 2011, the number of unionised workers in Uruguay reached approximately 420,000, representing a union membership rate of 36%, the highest in Latin America. Social dialogue has led to the adoption of social protection measures in response to the crisis, including action to protect decent work. The government and trade unions have also maintained the far-reaching programme to promote collective bargaining at branch level, which has benefitted thousands of workers.

Disputes over labour and trade union rights arose, mainly during the early months of 2011, involving low paid workers in the commercial and service sectors.

Trade union rights in law

There are some areas of concern despite basic trade union rights being secured. The Constitution guarantees freedom of association and recognises the right to strike as a trade union right. Workers are adequately protected against acts of anti-union discrimination and dismissal, and the law also provides for reinstatement in the case a unionist is unfairly dismissed.

While the right to collective bargaining is recognised in law, it is mostly carried out by branch of activity, with Wages Councils regulating the minimum wage and working conditions for each category of workers. The Wages Councils are tripartite bodies, and the Ministry of Labour is one of the negotiating parties. The ILO has held that the possibility of a vote being held in the Councils for setting conditions of employment infringes upon the principle of free and voluntary bargaining.

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

In practice

No entry for this country for this year


Collective bargaining rights denied in public and private banking sector: Between August and October 2011, public banking workers affiliated to the AEBU and private banking workers staged a series of stoppages to press for collective bargaining on labour conditions. The process had been blocked since December 2010. The collective action finally succeeded in pressing the banking sector to engage in negotiations and to examine the union demands.

Refusal to negotiate at Hospital Evangélico Uruguay: In October 2011, workers at Hospital Evangélico affiliated to the Federación Uruguaya de la Salud (FUS) decided to hold a 24-hour sit-in at the hospital in support of their demand for the negotiation of a collective agreement, which the administration was firmly refusing to discuss. The workers returned to work pending the definitive resolution of their demands regarding decent working conditions.

Refusal to bargain collectively in metal sector: In November 2011, metal workers affiliated to UNTMRA held a 25-day strike in response to their employers' refusal to engage in collective bargaining negotiations, called for 10 months before, within the framework of the Wage Councils, a bargaining mechanism whereby workers and employers agree on progressive pay adjustments in a specific branch of activity over a given period of time. The action succeeded in pressing the companies to negotiate with the union.

Collective agreements not honoured in health sector: In December 2011, the Sindicato Médico del Uruguay (SMU) announced a series of stoppages in the public and private health sector. The workers were demanding the fulfilment of the collective agreements signed in 2009, as well as fair and decent hours and pay conditions for the welfare of the patients in their care.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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