Section 7. Worker Rights
The law provides workers the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government generally respected these rights with limitations. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not provide for the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Restrictions in the law specifically forbid police and members of the armed forces from joining unions. The law does not allow government workers and workers in essential services, such as law enforcement, health-care providers, and public utility employees, to strike. The law prohibits strikes during natural disasters, epidemics, and pandemics as well as in times of state emergency. Authorities may impose compulsory arbitration at the request of one party to a dispute. There are no particular groups of workers excluded from or covered differently by relevant legal protections. The labor code provides for freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The government established a relatively effective mechanism to enforce applicable laws through the State Labor Inspectorate (SLI) within the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection, and Family and the Prosecutor General’s Office that have responsibility for enforcing provisions of the labor law. It failed, however, to monitor and enforce the right to collective bargaining and to organize effectively. The law does not provide effective sanctions for violations of freedom of association or stipulate penalties for violating trade union rights.
Under the law, the deliberate failure to negotiate and amend collective agreements or the violation of the negotiated terms is punishable by a fine of 1,000 to 1,500 lei ($50 to $75). An employer’s groundless refusal to sign a collective labor agreement is punishable by a fine of 2,000 to 2,500 lei ($100 to $125). The law mandates fines of 2,000 to 3,500 lei ($100 to $175) for violation of workers’ rights to form or join trade unions.
Resources, inspections, and remediation were generally inadequate, mostly due to parliament’s adoption of a law in March that banned state control activities, including those provided by the SLI.
The labor code requires the inspectorate to collaborate with other institutions, including business organizations/patronages and trade unions. The methods of cooperation are established through agreement between parties. According to the SLI and the National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC) of Moldova, no cases of infringement of the right to organize and bargain collectively were registered during the year. According to NTUC, however, private businesses and companies with foreign investments frequently opposed their employees’ right to organize and bargain collectively. NTUC maintained that there was little cooperation between the Prosecutor General’s Office and trade unions. NTUC leadership believed that the office was affiliated with powerful business interests.
While NTUC does not have a legal right to enforce the law, it regularly consulted employers and employees on the application of labor laws, negotiated employer compliance, and advanced worker rights. From January to June, NTUC visited 301 companies and 31,373 employees (including 27,780 trade unions members) and documented 4,647 violations, including 3,678 health and safety standard infringements and 981 labor law infringements. NTUC submitted information about these violations to the SLI. In addition, the NTUC labor inspectorate had two joint activities with the SLI requested by trade union members.
The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations were independent of the government, political parties, employers, or employers’ associations. While there were no reports that the government, political parties, or employers interfered in the functioning of workers’ organizations, some employers resisted the creation of new unions. Prosecutors may reject appeals by trade unions alleging antiunion behavior, and authorities did not punish alleged violations of the trade union law during the year. Workers exercised the right to strike by conducting legal strikes during the year. Employees of the state-owned railroad company protested repeatedly during the year against salary arrears, which amounted to 80 million lei ($4 million) in August and increased to 130 million lei ($6.5 million) by October.
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, with exceptions. The law and a government decision allow central and local authorities, as well as military bodies, to mobilize the adult population under certain conditions, such as in the event of a national disaster, and to employ such labor to develop the national economy. The government did not invoke this provision during the year. Penalties for persons who engage workers in forced labor range from two to 15 years’ imprisonment and were sufficiently stringent to deter violations but were seldom imposed.
The government did not effectively enforce the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation for forced labor were generally inadequate. Men and women were subjected to labor trafficking to Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, and the United Arab Emirates. Internal trafficking concerned all regions of the country. Internal labor trafficking was focused mostly on farms and begging in larger cities.
Internal trafficking for begging and labor exploitation was steadily on the rise. NGOs and shelters that housed and provided services to trafficked victims reported cases of domestic trafficking. Official complicity in trafficking continued to be a significant problem in the country. The government attempted to curb complicity by prosecuting those involved. Only low-level officials, such as the social housing coordinator from Cahul and several police officers from Chisinau, were prosecuted, however.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
The minimum age for employment is 16. The law permits juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 to work under special conditions, including shorter workdays (35 work hours per week), but prohibits their working nights, weekends, holiday shifts, or overtime. With written permission from a parent or guardian, 15-year-old children may work. Work for children who are 15 or 16 should not exceed 24 hours per week. Children under 18 are not allowed to perform hazardous and dangerous activities in 30 industries, including construction, agriculture, food processing, and textiles. The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for persons engaging children in such activities. Under aggravated circumstances, courts can increase the sentence to life imprisonment.
Authorities did not effectively enforce legal protections, and child labor remained a problem. Crimes involving the worst forms of child labor carried a punishment of six to 10 years’ imprisonment for forced labor and a fine of 100,000 to 175,000 lei ($5,000 to $8,750). Crimes committed by a group of offenders that cause serious bodily harm or death carry a prison term of seven to 15 years and fines of 125,000 and 200,000 lei ($6,250 to $10,000). Trafficking in children and involvement in child labor are punishable by 10 to 12 years’ imprisonment and fines of 200,000 to 300,000 lei ($10,000 to $15,000). In cases with aggravating circumstances, the law provides for 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 to 400,000 lei ($15,000 to $20,000). For repeat offenders, groups of offenders, or involvement of children under the age of 14, penalties may include life sentences and fines of 400,000 to 500,000 lei ($20,000 to $25,000).
Child prostitution is punishable by three to seven years imprisonment. Child pornography is punishable by one to three years imprisonment and fines of 150,000 to 250,000 lei ($7,500 to $10,000). Engaging minors in illegal activities is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment or a fine of 27,500 to 52,500 lei ($1,380 to $2,630). Engaging minors in illicit use of drugs, medicines, or other substances with intoxicating effects is punishable by up to six years in prison or a fine of 27,500 to 52,500 lei ($1,380 to $2,630).
Violation of labor laws, health protection, and labor safety with respect to children carries a fine of 6,000 to 7,500 lei ($300 to $375) for individuals, 12,500 to 17,500 lei ($625 to $875) for an official, and 20,000 to 24,000 lei ($1,000-$1,200) for legal entities. Subjecting minors to jobs posing a danger to life and health is punishable by a fine of 5,000 to 7,500 lei ($250 to $375) for individuals, 12,500 to 20,000 lei ($625 to $1,000) for an official, and 20,000 to 25,000 lei ($1,000 to $1,250) for legal entities.
According to government officials, penalties for crimes involving the worst forms of child labor were sufficient to deter violations. Parents who owned or worked on farms often sent children to work in fields or to find other employment. According to government data, 24.3 percent of children between the ages of five and 14 and 4.6 percent of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 fell into the category of child laborers. The vast majority of child laborers worked in family businesses or on family farms.
Children were subjected to trafficking in the country for labor, begging, and sexual exploitation.
The law prohibits discrimination based on sex, age, race, color, nationality, religion, political opinion, social origin, residence, disability, HIV-positive status, and membership or activity in trade unions as well as other criteria unrelated to the professional qualities, such as sexual orientation. The law requires employers to provide for equal opportunity and treatment of all employees without discrimination, to apply the same criteria to assess each employee’s work, and to provide for equal conditions for men and women relating to work and family obligations. The law defines and prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination as well as the worst forms of discrimination, which include discrimination based on two or more protected grounds. The law also provides for a Council to Prevent and Combat Discrimination and Ensure Equality responsible for reviewing complaints of discrimination and making recommendations. The government did not effectively enforce the law.
The law provides fines for violations of 5,000 to 22,500 lei ($250 to $1,130), which was considered sufficient to deter violations.
Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, minority status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status. NTUC reported frequent cases of employers denying employment to pregnant women, since such employment was associated with additional benefits payable after the childbirth. University or college graduates were frequently denied employment because of an alleged lack of experience.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There are separate minimum wages for the public and private sectors. In May the government set the minimum monthly wage for the private sector at 2,100 lei ($105) per month (based on average 169 work hours per month), while the minimum monthly wage for public sector employees remained unchanged at 1,000 lei ($50). According to official data, the minimum monthly subsistence level was 1,814 lei ($91) in the first half of the year. According to NTUC, as of September, salary arrears were more than 139.5 million lei ($7 million), including over 78 million lei ($3.9 million) owed by the state companies to 11,265 employees; 55 million lei ($2.8 million) owed by private companies to 5,283 employees; over 5.6 million lei ($280,000) by municipal companies to 1,114 employees, and 181,000 lei ($9,050) owed by public institutions to 152 employees. The law sets the maximum workweek at 40 hours with extra compensation for overtime, provides for at least one day off per week, and mandates paid annual leave of at least 28 calendar days (government holidays excluded). Different paid leave plans may be used in some sectors of the economy, such as education, health care, and public service. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. Foreign and migrant workers have the same legal status as domestic workers.
The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards and updated them during the year. According to labor law, workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.
The labor code requires work contracts for employment. Employers must register these contracts with local officials, with copies sent to the local labor inspectorates. Through August, the SLI reported 98 persons were employed at 47 enterprises without proper documents, including 27 women and 11 minors. There were no reports of work contracts in the agricultural sector, where the central government did not have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance.
The government generally enforced requirements for minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational health and safety standards in the formal sector but not in the informal sector. The law requires the government to establish and monitor safety standards in the workplace, and the SLI was responsible for monitoring and enforcement of compliance with labor legislation. In August, however, parliament adopted a law that delegated the functions of OSH standards enforcement to the Public Health Agency under the Ministry of Health. The inspectorate had 109 labor inspectors, 22 of whom worked in the central office and 87 in 10 regional branches. Between January and October, the office performed 3,606 inspections, 1,711 of which were health and safety inspections and 1,895 of which involved labor relations/legislation. The office inspected 2,971 companies (enterprises, institutions, and organizations in the public sector) employing more than 121,300 persons, including 75,300 women and 19 minors. It documented 36,716 infringements, including 17,365 of health and safety standards and 19,351 of labor laws. The SLI sent 148 protocols of administrative offenses to the courts, of which 112 were examined, resulting in penalties amounting to 308,200 lei ($15,400). Starting in November, penalties for violations ranged from 5,000 to 24,000 lei ($250 to $1,200), but were insufficient to deter violations. In addition, inspections decreased in number and effectiveness due to parliament’s adoption of a law banning state controls in March, including SLI planned and unplanned inspections. The ban was lifted in October.
A thriving informal economy accounted for a significant portion of the country’s economic activity. According to the most recent available data, in 2013 the informal economy represented 23.1 percent of the country’s GDP. According to the International Labor Organization, 30.9 percent of the total employed population had an informal job and 68.7 percent of those jobs were in the agricultural sector. Workers in the informal economy did not have the same legal protections as employees in the formal sector. The SLI reported 123 persons working in the formal sector without proper documentation, including 38 women and 14 minors. The SLI sent 62 protocols on administrative offenses to the courts and reported that 24 persons had their rights restored. There were no government social programs targeting workers in the informal economy.
Poor economic conditions led enterprises to spend less on safety equipment and to pay insufficient attention to worker safety. During the first seven months of year, the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection, and Family reported 252 accidents at work. The SLI investigated 63 accidents, while special committees at the respective companies investigated other cases. State inspectors finalized the investigations in 13 cases that resulted in 15 deaths and seven accidents that severely injured nine employees. Twenty accidents remained under investigation, including nine that resulted in deaths. In 2015 SLI inspectors investigated 130 out of 411 reported cases of accidents. Enterprise committees investigated the other 281 cases. A large number of incidents occurred in the processing industry (17 severe accidents and five deaths), construction works (six severe accidents and seven deaths), and agriculture and forestry (three severe accidents and seven deaths). The most common causes for injuries and deaths were falling from heights, jammed fingers, and impact or crushing by equipment.