Peru: Threat to Labour Rights

published 17 April 2020 updated 30 April 2020

In response to the Peruvian government's ruling on labour issues, which allows private companies to regulate employment in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, trade unions have launched a campaign to demand the repeal of Emergency Decree 038-2020, which authorises the complete suspension of work, effectively undermining collective bargaining.

A new government decree (Emergency Decree No 038-2020) grants flexibility to private enterprises and allows them to suspend labour contracts with no remuneration. The measure, which was adopted without consulting the public, is at the heart of a national protest campaign launched on 15 April. The Peruvian education union SUTEP, a member organisation of Education International, is taking part in the campaign.

The Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú (CGTP) has issued a statement rejecting the measures outlined in the emergency decree. The statement also warns of “threats and demands made by the employers' association CONFIEP and the lack of transparency with which the government and the Ministry of Labour may be proceeding”. Trade unions fear that the measure, initially intended for small businesses experiencing difficulties, will be used by large companies to cut costs and undermine labour rights.

According to General Secretary of the CGTP, Gerónimo López, “there are large companies that are profiting a great deal and that have the resources to preserve job posts and comply with labour regulations”. López expressed his regret that the measure adopted by the government was a blanket approach applicable to all types of companies, regardless of their circumstances.

For the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Educación, SUTEP Peru, the government decision was taken without consultation or social dialogue and in clear collusion with the employers' organisation. The union regrets that “everything appears to have been a closed-door agreement between the business sector and the government”. SUTEP joined the first protest action across networks that began on 15 April.

In Peru, most workers lack job security. The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in redundancies, curtailment of rights and neglect of the most vulnerable workers. The few, 7 out of 10 workers, who did have some job security (with a renewable temporary contract), will be affected by mass redundancies as a result of total suspension of work.