Peru- State Dept. Section 6- Workers Rights

Chris, London 100423.2040 at
Tue Apr 9 13:55:06 MDT 1996

[CB I hope particularly a trade unionist may comment on this section if
appropriate. I also wonder from a theoretical point of view whether
subscribers think you can have a "valid" marxist revolutionary movement in a country
in which only 5% of the workforce are in unions.]

 Section 6   Worker Rights

    a.   The Right of Association
 It is estimated that only 5 percent of the total work force of 8.5
million belong to organized labor unions.  More than half of all workers
are in the informal sector of the economy.  Workers do not need prior
authorization to form a trade union, nor, by law, can employment be
conditioned on union membership or nonmembership.  Existing unions
represent a cross-section of political opinion.  Although some unions
have been traditionally associated with political groups, the law
prohibits unions from engaging in explicitly political, religious, or
profit-making activities.  There are no restrictions on membership in
international bodies.  Several major labor unions and confederations are
affiliates of international labor groups, including the International
Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions.  The several union leaders who ran unsuccessfully for
Congress in 1995 all did so as individuals, without union sponsorship.
 In June Congress approved a new Employment Law, which all of the main
union confederations publicly criticized for violating the rights of
unions including freedom to bargain collectively and the right to work.
Unions also complained that the new law eliminates the compulsory
reinstatement of dismissed workers when it is proven that they were
unjustly dismissed.  At present such workers only have the right to a
year's pay as indemnification.  In September the head of the
Coordinating Union Board, which is composed of the three main union
confederations, complained publicly that the new Employment Law had led
to the dismissal of approximately 3,000 workers since it was enacted.
The Coordinating Union Board filed a complaint with the ILO regarding
the new law.
 This new law, which treats both men and women equally, superseded
earlier legislation which had provided special working conditions for
women.  Among the benefits women workers lost were the guarantee of an
hour each day for breastfeeding of children up to 1 year of age, and the
requirement that employers with more than 25 female employees provide a
nursery.  In practice, the new Labor Code has had a negative impact on
the right of association by making it easier for companies to fire
workers involved in union activities.

    b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

 The 1993 Constitution recognizes the right of public and private workers
to organize and bargain collectively.  However, these rights must be
exercised in harmony with broader social objectives.  Labor regulations
promulgated prior to the 1993 approval of the new Constitution provide
that workers can form unions based on profession, employment, or
geographic location.  The regulations exclude temporary, probationary,
apprentice, or management employees from union membership.  They require
a minimum of 100 members to form trade unions by branch of activity,
occupation, or for various occupations; and a minimum of 20 workers to
form a union within a company.  They also limit the number of union
officials, the amount of time they may devote to union business on
company time, and require them to be active members of the union.  No
legal provisions require employers who commit antiunion discrimination
to reinstate workers fired for union activities.
 Labor regulations set the number of union representatives who can
participate in collective bargaining negotiations (a minimum of 3, a
maximum of 12) and establish the negotiating timetable.  The management
negotiating team cannot exceed the size of the workers' team; both sides
may have attorneys and professional experts in attendance as advisers.
A majority of all workers in a company, whether union members or not,
must approve a strike by a secret ballot.  A second vote must be taken
upon petition of 20 percent or more of the workers.  The labor movement
criticized provisions of the new Labor Code which facilitate an
employer's ability to dismiss employees as impeding workers' right to
bargain collectively.  However, there are apparently no restrictions
that would prohibit unions from negotiating a higher standard than the
base line of protection provided for workers by the law.  To become an
official collective bargaining representative, a union must represent 20
 Labor regulations also permit companies unilaterally to propose
temporary changes of work schedules, conditions, and wages and to
suspend for up to 90 days collective bargaining agreements if obliged to
do so by an unexpected event or economic conditions, provided they give
15 days' notice to employees.  If workers dispute the proposed changes,
the Labor Ministry must resolve the dispute based upon criteria of
"reasonableness" and "economic necessity."  In such cases employers must
authorize vacation time and in general adopt measures that avoid
aggravating the employment situation.
 A conciliation and arbitration system resolves disputes, but union
officials complain that their proportionate share of the cost of
arbitration can exceed their resources.  (In the past, business and
government entities had covered these costs.)  Union officials also
state that increasing numbers of companies utilize a policy of hiring
workers on temporary, personal services contracts to prevent union
affiliation.  The new law restricts such hiring to 20 percent of the
company's workforce.  Regulations on this point are still being
formulated by the Labor Ministry.  This is a continuing subject of
contention between organized labor and employers and is one of the
concerns that labor continues to raise in international forums.
Employers deny the accusation of antiunion bias and assert that labor
stability provisions of the law have made long-term commitments to
workers too expensive.
 Special regulations permitting greater flexibility in application of the
Labor Code in export and duty free zones provide for the use of
temporary labor as needed, flexibility in labor contracts, and a wage
system based upon supply and demand.  As a result, workers in duty free
zones are unable to unionize.  Duty free zone employers do not engage in
illegal activities to prevent unionization.

    c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
 The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, as well as
imprisonment for debt.  However, there are periodic reports of the
practice of forced labor in remote Andean mountain and Amazonian jungle
regions of the country.  In response to a complaint filed with the ILO,
the Government in 1994 acknowledged the existence of such practices and
asserted it had taken measures to end abuses.  However, reports of
forced labor, including that of children in gold mines in the remote
Madre de Dios department, continued to emerge.  Forced labor is not a
problem in urban areas.

    d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children
 Education through primary school is compulsory and free.  A high
percentage of school-age children nevertheless work rather than attend
daytime classes, with only a small number of such children attending
classes at night.  Given Peru's widespread poverty, children work in the
informal economy without government supervision of wages or conditions
>from a very early age to help support their families.  A recent
Government labor study found that 8 percent of the workforce was between
the ages of 6 and 14.  The Government's National Institute of Family
Welfare cooperates with the United Nations Children's Fund and the
Inter-American Development Bank to assist and rescue street children and
other child laborers.
 The minimum legal age for employment is 16.  The new Labor Code raised
the age from 21 to 25 years for the special youth labor provisions,
which allow employers to pay lower salaries as part of a program to
provide new workers with specialized training.  The new Labor Code also
increased the period of apprenticeship from 18 to 36 months.  In
addition, workers covered by these provisions now may make up 30 percent
(increased from 15 percent) of a company's work force.
 Child labor is heavily used in the agricultural sector and in informal
gold mining, but not in other major export industries, such as petroleum
and fisheries.  Recent studies by NGO's found that approximately 4,500
workers younger than 18 years of age work in harsh conditions in the
informal Madre de Dios gold mines.  Many of these workers are under the
age of 15, and some are as young as 11.  These child laborers were
recruited from their families through a system known as "enganche" in
Puno, Juliaca, Sicuani, Abancay, and Cuzco, through which they are
provided free transportation to the mine and reportedly agree to work
for at least 90 days before being paid.  The Government has not
exercised control over these employment agencies, and employers do not
comply with labor code provisions relating to juveniles.  Children who
work in the informal gold mines lack proper medical care, must work long
hours, and are often subjected to beatings, mistreatment, and rape.
There are also reports of these mine workers not being paid.

    e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work
 The Constitution provides that the State promote social and economic
progress and occupational education.  It states that workers should
receive a "just and sufficient" wage, to be determined by the Government
in consultation with labor and business representatives and "adequate
protection against arbitrary dismissal."  The current minimum wage is
about $57 (S/130) per month and is generally considered inadequate to
support a worker and family.  A considerable portion, half according to
some estimates, of the country's work force make only the minimum wage.
 The Constitution also provides for a 48-hour workweek, a weekly day of
rest, and yearly vacation.  It prohibits discrimination in the
workplace.  While occupational health and safety standards exist, the
Government lacks the resources to monitor or enforce compliance.
Employers and workers generally agree upon compensation for industrial
accidents on an individual basis.  The Government introduced reforms in
1993 eliminating the need to prove culpability in order to obtain
worker's compensation for injuries.  There are no provisions for workers
to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to
continued employment.

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