Capital: Buenos Aires
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182
Employers continue to obstruct collective bargaining and to dismiss unionised workers, particularly in the communications sector. The use of contract labour continues, making labour rights more precarious. The Labour Ministry intervened on several occasions to impose compulsory conciliation on enterprises and in some cases to fine them for preventing the holding of trade union elections. In February workers unfairly dismissed from the Crónica daily newspaper were reinstated.
TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW
Although basic trade union rights are guaranteed in law, certain issues exist. Under the Constitution, workers have the right to form and join trade unions without prior authorisation. However, only one union – the most representative one – in a given industrial sector and within a specific geographical region can have official trade union status (personería gremial), and the requirements for obtaining such status are excessive. While the law grants certain benefits solely to trade unions with official status, including the right to check off union fees and to protection for its leaders, the latter right was extended to representatives of all registered unions in a Supreme Court ruling in December 2009. In November 2008, the Supreme Court also ruled that it is not necessary to be affiliated to a union with official status to be elected as a trade union representative in the public sector.
Furthermore, while the right to bargaining is recognised, registered unions that do not have official status are precluded. The law also stipulates that collective agreements must be approved by the Ministry of Labour to become binding. In addition, the principle of "representation of collective interests" apply to the right to strike, thereby denying this right to unions without official status. The Ministry of Labour also takes the final decision on the minimum services needed during a strike when "the parties fail to reach an agreement" or "when the agreements prove insufficient".
TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010
Background: Public policies to bolster employment, the economy and demand succeeded in reducing the impact of the economic crisis in Argentina. According to the ILO, the Universal Child Allowance has reduced poverty among children and adolescents by 65% and 18% respectively. The allowance was extended to the children of workers in the informal economy and the aim is to make it cover all children.
The biggest labour disputes took place in the media. The unions continue to organise contract workers and to strive for them to have a direct link with the enterprise.
Bogus labour cooperatives: There are still some bogus labour cooperatives used to thwart the creation of trade unions. At least 1,500 railway workers are hired using this method, whereby workers are registered as supposed business associates, and are not paid a salary but instead make "withdrawals" from the cooperatives profits. Further to complaints the government has dealt with this serious problem by cancelling their permission to operate in many cases. The cooperatives have launched legal appeals against these cancellations.
Anti-union dismissals and violations of collective bargaining rights at Diario La Capital: The media workers' umbrella organisation Intersindical de los Medios condemned La Capital's refusal to recognise the journalists' and graphical workers' collective agreement on automatic salary indexation in line with the minimum wage, and the dismissal of 26 workers in March 2010. The Prensa Rosario Union (SPR), the Argentinian Communications Workers' Association (AATRAC), the Public Spectacles United Workers' Union (SUTEP) and the Argentinian Presenters Society (SAL) all form part of the Intersindical de los Medios. The organisations went on strike, affecting the publication of the newspaper, in order to demand the reinstatement of those dismissed and respect for the working conditions of unionised employees. The company prevented the workers from entering the premises, despite being ordered by the Labour Ministry to hold compulsory conciliation talks and review the dismissals. After several days of the strike, the company agreed to compulsory conciliation and reinstated the dismissed workers.
Monitoring trade union activities: In July the National Labour Appeals Tribunal of the Federal Capital appointed a permanent supervisor whose principal task would be to monitor all the activities and the scope of action of the Bank Workers' Association (affiliated to the General Confederation of Labour – CGT) within the framework of the discussion on trade union elections. This measure seriously undermined the fundamental principal of trade union freedom and independence and was condemned by the organisation's leaders and national trade union centres.
Workers' Party member dies during contract workers' demonstration: On 20 October a mob from the railway workers' union Unión Ferroviaria (UF) killed Mariano Ferreya, a student and activist from the Buenos Aires University Federation (FUBA) and the Workers' Party (PO), who was one of some 200 railway workers taking part in a piquet that blocked the General Roca railway line at Avellaneda. There was a confrontation between the two groups, using sticks and stones, around the Hipólito Yrigoyen station. As they fought, some of the Unión Ferroviaria group brought out guns and shot at the left-wing activists. In addition to killing Mariano Ferreyra, they injured three others. The demonstrators were calling for the reinstatement of dismissed contract workers, in an attempt to put an end to precarious employment.
The authorities began legal proceedings against seven people who took part in the disturbances that led to the death of Ferreyra. The seven were being held in preventive detention, and include the top leader of Unión Ferroviaria.
El Clarín newspaper fined for violating trade union rights: In November the Labour Ministry imposed a fine of ARP 1.347.000 on Artes Gráficas Rioplatenses (AGR), a printing company and subsidiary of the El Clarín daily paper, for preventing a meeting taking place to hold trade union elections. Labour inspectors also found there had been a range of practices that obstructed the exercise of trade union activity. Other serious violations of trade union rights have taken place in the company since 2004, for which it has also faced fines and sanctions.
Reinstatements at La Crónica: In September 2009, the daily newspaper La Crónica dismissed several workers and sought the permission of the Labour Ministry to dismiss 120 unionised employees. Between November 2009 and February 2010, after lengthy direct negotiations between the parties and meetings mediated by the Labour Ministry, the company and the union reached agreement on the reinstatement of the dismissed workers. Furthermore, La Crónica promised not to carry out any restructuring for one year and to respect the collective agreement.
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