With certain limitations, labor laws and regulations provide 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, unless they opt to receive compensation instead. Regulations allow workers to form unions without seeking prior authorization. The minimum membership required by law to form a union is 20 employees for a workplace-level union and 50 employees for a sector-wide union, which some labor activists viewed as prohibitively high in some instances, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Union organization in some nontraditional export sectors, such as textiles and apparel, was difficult due to the use of short-term contracts.
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.” The law prohibits judges, prosecutors, police officers, and military members from forming or joining unions. New unions must register in the Ministry of Labor and Employment Protection’s Sub-directorate of Conflict Prevention under a process that takes up to four days, during which time employers may dismiss unionized workers and leaders.
Two nationwide strikes by public school teachers and medical doctors demanding increased salaries and benefits occurred during the year. The high-profile strikes caused social and political disruptions but were largely peaceful.
The law allows unions to declare a strike in accordance with their governing documents. Private- and public-sector union workers must give advance notice of a strike to the employer and the Ministry of Labor. Private-sector workers must give advance notice of at least five working days, and public-sector workers must give at least 10 days’ notice. 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 in essential services are permitted to call a strike but must provide 15 working days’ notice, receive the approval of the ministry, obtain approval of a simple majority of workers, and provide a sufficient number of workers during a strike to maintain operations. Private enterprises and the public institutions cannot fire workers who strike legally. The private sector may, however, fire illegally striking workers on the fourth day of their unapproved absence. The public sector can fire illegal striking employees sector through 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 these mechanisms fail, workers may 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 a prerequisite for binding arbitration was met, the law also allows a party to submit the matter to independent, nongovernmental arbitrators for an initial decision.
The law 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 short-term 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 on the consecutive use of short-term employment contracts 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 employers in those sectors to hire workers on a series of short-term contracts indefinitely, without requiring a conversion to the permanent workforce.
The government did not effectively enforce freedom of association and collective bargaining laws. Resources remained inadequate, including for the Ministry of Labor and its National Superintendency of Labor Inspection (SUNAFIL), although the government increased SUNAFIL’s budget during the year and opened a new regional office in Cusco. Penalties for violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining range from 7,400 to 74,000 soles ($2,280 to $22,800). Such penalties were insufficient to deter violations and, according to labor experts and union representatives, were rarely enforced. Workers continued to face 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 due to delays in the judicial appeals processes. NGOs also reported instances of noncompliance with arbitrators’ decisions.
Significant delays in the collective bargaining process remained a common obstacle to compliance with worker rights to bargain collectively. Employers often showed a lack of interest in concluding agreements. Workers employed under laws to promote the textile, apparel, and agriculture industries faced obstacles, such as allegations of delayed negotiations and legal threats, to exercise the right to collective bargaining.
NGOs reported some employers used subcontracting to avoid creating direct employment relationships. 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.
NGOs continued to report 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.