ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182
Temporary contracts, mass dismissals and labour outsourcing were utilised to flout workers' labour and trade union rights. Unwarranted government intervention assisted employers in their efforts to break strikes.
Trade union rights in law
While fundamental trade union rights are recognised, certain problems exist in the law. Both public and private sector workers are free to form and join trade unions without prior authorisation, however the minimum membership required by law to create unions is too high. Temporary workers are not allowed to join the same union as permanent workers. The law does not protect workers against anti-union actions, as it allows employers to sack workers without any justification in return for payment of severance pay.
The right to collective bargaining is guaranteed in the Constitution, although the scope for bargaining is restricted for workers in public administration.
The right to strike is also recognised, but is undermined by the fact that authorisation from the Ministry of Labour is required to call a strike. Furthermore, the Ministry has the power to end a strike if it poses a serious risk to the enterprise or the sector of production or if it could have serious consequences due to its size. The Administrative Labour Authority – and not the courts – has the responsibility for declaring whether or not a strike is legal, and can also determine the extent of the minimum service if the parties fail to reach an agreement. Finally, a Ministerial Resolution provides for the creation of a national register of substitute teachers to replace striking teachers.
Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009
Background: During 2009, indigenous communities from the Amazon region staged numerous protests calling for the repeal of the decrees and laws passed by the Peruvian government to meet the conditions linked to the implementation of the free trade agreement with the United States. Police repression of the demonstrations led to the deaths of 30 indigenous people and 23 police officers.
The indigenous communities were protesting that the new legislation was allowing for the handing over of property rights or leases on forests, mines, oil and gas fields, as well as flora and fauna on their ancestral lands, without having duly consulted them or guaranteeing the protection of their rights. The government's actions are placing the lives of indigenous peoples at risk and violating the land rights they enjoy in accordance with international regulations on the matter, and in particular ILO Convention 169.
The application of the measures to implement the free trade agreement has also had repercussion on the labour and trade union rights of the population in general. This situation motivated the trade union movement to keep up its fight against the government's policies and to denounce the Peruvian state as a human rights violator to the Committee on the Application of Standards at the 98th International Labour Conference.
Temporary contracts used to avoid unionisation: Manufacturing companies are making fraudulent use of temporary contracts on a massive scale to avoid unionisation, the recognition of labour rights and the payment of benefits. Workers on short-term contracts are denied the right to organise and are subjected to long working hours, low pay, abusive treatment and limited access to pension and health cover, as they do not have a permanent employment relationship.
Outsourcing in the public sector: The government is continuing the trend of contracting out government services on a wide scale, leading to ever-fewer posts in state-owned enterprises and the public administration, as well as making it harder for workers to organise.
Anti-union dismissals as Hilandería Hialpesa: Textile company Hilandería Hialpesa decided not to renew the temporary contracts, which are usually renewed every three months, of 150 unionised workers. Some of those dismissed had been working uninterruptedly at the plant for 18 years, which amounts to over 70 successive three-month contracts. The workers affected performed permanent tasks in the textile production process and were fraudulently employed on temporary contracts, as under no terms could they be considered as workers employed to meet orders for specific buyers.
Workers ill-treated at Corporación Texpop S.A.: Practices violating workers' rights are commonplace, especially in the textile sector. One example is clothing manufacturer Corporación Texpop S.A. The company imposes 12-hour days on its workers, fixes the clock-in system so that it can pay them less, ignores the provisions of the collective agreement, unfairly dismisses workers complaining about poor working conditions, as well as withholding the severance pay and social benefits owed to dismissed workers.
The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) called on the company to take urgent measures to remedy the situation as well as urging the government to take steps to stop these abuses, which have been allowed to go unheeded throughout the year.
Undue state interference and strike busting by management: In March, the AMBEV beer company workers' union, Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Compañía Cervecera AMBEV Perú S.A.C. (SUTAMBEV), asked the Labour Authority of Sullana, in the department of Piura, to assess and draw up the report on the list of demands, with a view to assessing the company's economic position. Almost two months later, the authority had still not responded, and the company proceeded to launch a series of anti-union practices. Finally, the Labour Authority declared the strike at the AMBEV plant legal, but unduly ruled that the stoppage should only affect unionised workers, a decision the trade union had to appeal against. While the appeal was underway, the company began placing workers that had not taken part in the strike in the posts held by the strikers. AMBEV's anti-union action led to a serious work accident that almost cost the life of a worker, Martín Poicón Vega, who had been assigned to a task for which he was not qualified.
Temporary contracts and anti-union dismissals at Universal Textil: During the first half of 2009, Universal Textil, a leading exporter in Peru, decided not to renew the contracts of the workers that had joined a union. This practice is becoming increasingly widespread in the textile sector, to the extent that over 2,900 dismissals have been registered since the approval of the Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) with the United States in 2007.
In June 2007, the labour authorities had determined that Universal Textil was employing 1,257 workers on temporary contracts, despite not satisfying the export levels required, and ordered it to make the contracts permanent. In spite of the many calls for it to comply with this order, the company continued to ignore it in 2009.
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