With certain limitations, labor laws and regulations provide for freedom of association, the right to strike, and collective bargaining. The law prohibits employer intimidation and other forms of antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Regulations allow workers to form unions without seeking prior authorization. The minimum membership required by law to form a union - 20 employees for a workplace-level union and 50 employees for a sector-wide union - was prohibitively high in some instances, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. The law specifies that public and private sector workers have the right to organize, bargain collectively, and strike, but it stipulates that the right to strike must be “in harmony with broader social objectives.” Judges, prosecutors, and members of the police and military are not permitted to form or join unions.
In May the Ministry of Labor changed the procedure for registering new unions. Under the new process, the Ministry of Labor’s General Registry Office no longer processes new union registration, a process that took one day to complete. New unions must register in the Ministry of Labor’s Sub-Directorate of Conflict Prevention under a process that takes up to four days, during which time employers can dismiss unionized workers and leaders. Unions and labor experts reported that the Ministry of Labor refused to register newly affiliated union members after the initial union registration period concluded. Labor NGOs and labor leaders criticized this change as one that exposes workers who form unions to dismissal.
The law allows unions to declare a strike in accordance with their statutes. Private and public sector union workers must give advance notice of a strike of at least five working days for private sector workers and 10 days for the public sector to employers and the Ministry of Labor. The law also allows nonunion workers to declare a strike with a majority vote as long as the written voting record is notarized and announced at least five working days prior to a strike.
Unions that the government determines are essential in public services are permitted to call a strike but must provide 15 working days’ notice, receive the approval of the Ministry of Labor, be approved by a simple majority of workers, and provide a sufficient number of workers during a strike to maintain operations, as jointly determined by the union and labor authorities on an annual basis. Workers who strike legally cannot be fired for striking, but illegal strikers in the private sector can be fired on the fourth day of absenteeism, and public sector strikers after an administrative procedure.
Unless there is a pre-existing labor contract covering an occupation or industry as a whole, unions must negotiate with companies individually. The law establishes processes for direct negotiations and conciliation. If those fail, workers can declare a strike or request arbitration. The law outlines the process that authorizes the use of arbitration to end collective labor disputes. The law gives a party the ability to compel the other party to submit to arbitration (whether worker- or employer-initiated) whenever either of the parties cannot reach an agreement in the first collective bargaining negotiation, or a party does not engage in good faith during collective bargaining by delaying, hindering, or avoiding an agreement. If the parties disagree over whether or not a prerequisite for binding arbitration has been met, the law also allows a party to submit the matter to independent, nongovernmental arbitrators for an initial decision.
The law forbids businesses from hiring subcontracted workers as a simple provision of personnel, requires businesses to monitor their contractors with respect to labor rights, and imposes liability on businesses for the actions of their contractors. The law governing the general private-sector labor regime sets out nine different categories of employment contracts that companies may use to hire workers based on particular circumstances. The law sets time limits for each of the categories and contains a five-year overall limit when contracts from different categories are used together. A sector-specific law covering the nontraditional export sectors (e.g., fishing, wood and paper, nonmetallic minerals, jewelry, textiles and apparel, and the agriculture industry) exempts employers from this five-year limit and allows them to hire workers on a series of short-term contracts indefinitely, without requiring a conversion to the permanent workforce. Worker unions, NGOs, and some multi-national apparel brands criticized the law, asserting that workers employed under this law who attempted to organize or affiliate with unions did not have their contracts renewed.
In response to complaints filed by textile workers, labor authorities determined in several cases that thousands of short-term contracts registered under the nontraditional export regime had been incorrectly approved, and the Ministry of Labor issued resolutions to rectify the error.
The law requires the phased elimination of the Administrative Service Contracts (CAS) short-term employment hiring system, which applies to public sector workers; no specific date for elimination is included in the law. CAS workers made up 17 percent of the approximately one million-member public sector workforce. CAS worker unions criticized the law, stating it leaves room for public employers to limit benefits according to budget availability and leaves CAS workers vulnerable to unjustified contract cancellation, which may violate constitutional protection against arbitrary dismissal.
The government did not effectively enforce the law in all cases. Resources remained inadequate. In April the newly created National Labor Inspectorate, SUNAFIL, assumed labor inspection duties. As of September SUNAFIL reported 295 inspectors nationwide, 212 of whom were based in Lima. Penalties for violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining range from 7,400 to 74,000 new soles ($2,640 to $26,400). Such penalties were insufficient to deter violations and, according to labor experts and union representatives, were rarely enforced. Workers faced prolonged judicial processes and lack of enforcement following dismissals resulting from trade union activity. For example, NGOs reported that emblematic cases of labor arbitration dating from 2012 remained suspended, with the implementation of arbitrators’ decisions delayed by judicial appeals processes. These cases involved unions that represented public and private sector workers at Shougang mine, the national tax authority, and inspectors from the Ministry of Labor. NGOs also reported instances of noncompliance with arbitrators’ decisions.
Workers faced challenges in exercising their rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining. As of September the Ministry of Labor registered 53 total strikes, 48 of which were declared illegal. Employers continued to dismiss workers for exercising their right to strike. Dismissal of striking workers and delays in reinstatement of these workers, in both legal and illegal strikes, were the main tactic used by employers to dissuade workers from going on strike. For example, the entire executive committee of elected union officers for Alicorp Workers Union was fired in August after taking strike actions. Union leaders from security companies Prosegur and EcVisa were dismissed after conducting strikes.
Labor union representatives and labor sector experts reported an increased number of cases of employers who filed criminal charges alleging material damages against workers who engaged in strikes. These charges then served as the basis for dismissing union officers and workers who participated in strikes. For example, 36 workers in export-oriented agriculture companies Camposol, including union officers, 24 activists from the Field Workers Union, and five activists from the Palm Oil Processing Workers Union, faced criminal charges for property damage as a result of strikes. Workers were notified of the criminal investigations several months after the strikes. Union members expressed concern that employers were using criminal investigations as an intimidation tactic prior to impending collective bargaining activities.
Significant delays in the collective bargaining process due to employers’ lack of interest in concluding agreements proved to be a common obstacle to compliance with worker rights to bargain collectively. Workers employed under laws to promote the textile, apparel, and agriculture industries faced obstacles to exercise the right to collective bargaining. Workers in the public sector, such as the employees of the stock exchange, and the mining sector faced the same obstacles. For example, as of October health-care workers at Clinica Montifim and mining companies Huanzala, Sider Peru, and Shougang had been negotiating for seven months without reaching an agreement. NGOs and worker organizations also reported that some collective bargaining arbitrators were threatened with penal sanctions for issuing economic awards in favor of public sector workers that contravene the public sector budget law.
Employers engaged in antiunion practices, including using subcontracting to avoid direct employment relationships and the associated legal requirements. Such subcontracting also limited the size of a company’s permanent workforce, making it more difficult to reach the 20-employee threshold necessary to form a union. Many businesses, including export industries, hired temporary workers, who were effectively barred from participating in unions due to fear that their contracts might not be renewed. Employers also circumvented restrictions regarding hiring temporary workers to perform core company functions.
NGOs also reported management interference in labor-management health and safety committees. Management sometimes interfered in the election of worker representatives, held committee sessions without full worker representation, and failed to notify elected worker representatives when labor inspectors conducted workplace inspections. As of September mineworkers’ unions from Southern Peru Copper Company, Milpo, and Atacocha, reported several cases of employer interference and noncompliance with workplace safety and health regulations.