April 25, 2016:
An investigation by the United States government has shown that Peru is actively working against unions and ignoring basic labor rights. The investigation was undertaken as part of a review of a U.S.-Peru trade deal signed in 2009. Marc Bélanger of Canada’s Radio Labour filed this special report:
[Marc Bélanger]: The deal was publicized as a breakthrough, because it supposedly guaranteed respect for the rights of workers in Peru, including their right to form unions. But, as the investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor has shown, Peru is systematically working against workers and their unions. The report particularly condemns a law which lets employers hire workers on very short term contracts for years. This arrangement allows the employers to get rid of union activists simply by not renewing their employment contracts. Tens of thousands of workers are subject to these sort of short term contracts, especially garment workers.
Just recently, a union activist from Germany who was helping UNI, the Global Union for Skills and Services, in Peru was deported because he spoke at a rally. Peruvian authorities said Orhan Akman from the German union ver.di had ‘disrupted public order, tranquility, and social peace.’ Akman is an expert in Garment Sector labor relations. Adriana Rosenzvaig is the regional secretary of UNI Americas based in Montevideo, Uruguay:
[Adriana Rosenzvaig]: “Orhan Akman, he was helping us in organizing new unions in the garment sector in Peru. His main role was to develop discussion on the critical changes that the sector is suffering, and to organize new unions in Peru, in Colombia and in other parts of the region.”
[Marc Bélanger]: How did UNI and the other labor organizations react to the expulsion of Mr. Akman?
[Adriana Rosenzvaig]: “We sent a letter to the President of Peru. At the same time, all the unions in Peru are expressing his deep concern and disappointment with this decision. The ver.di demonstrated their disappointment in front of the embassy of Peru. We spoke to the company that is involved in these accusations and the company sent us a letter saying that they have nothing to do with the situation. We are making a huge campaign organizing future actions.”
Bélanger of Radio Labour notes that Peru’s failure to improve its labor relations practices could have implications for the massive Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently being negotiated between a dozen Pacific Rim nations, including Peru and the United States.