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US Labor Department Report Raises Concerns About Peru’s Textile and Apparel Industries

A report released recently as part of the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA) by the labor department has highlighted significant concerns regarding labor law enforcement and the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining in the Latin American country’s non-traditional export (NTE) sectors, including textiles and apparel, particularly for those workers employed on consecutive short-term contracts.

Published in response to a submission filed with the department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs by workers’ rights representatives back in July, the report revealed the U.S. government had reviewed the situation and found the current system in place to protect Peruvian workers’ rights to be ineffective.

Last summer’s submission—filed by the International Labor Rights Forum, Perú Equidad and seven Peruvian workers’ organizations—accused the government of failing to enforce its labor laws effectively. It also said that Peru’s law governing employment contracts for NTEs is incompatible with freedom of association and cited specific instances to support its allegation.

Based on evidence gathered as part of the review, the report discovered that in many instances, NTE workers who attempt to exercise their right to freely associate do not have their contracts renewed and that the rate of unionization in those sectors is less than half the rate for workers employed on an indefinite basis.

The U.S. government also pointed out problems concerning the enforcement of laws relating to occupational health and safety, including low inspectorate staffing levels and the inability of the administrative labor authority to compel employers to comply with reinstatement and other remediation orders.

Thus, the report made the following recommendations:

• adopt and implement legal measures to ensure that the use of short-term contracts in the NTE sectors does not restrict workers’ associational rights
• establish SUNAFIL (La Superintendencia Nacional de Fiscalización Laboral) offices in all regions of Peru as soon as possible
• increase support for SUNAFIL activities, including labor inspections and administrative sanction processes
• expand Labor Courts of First Instance and increase the judiciary’s budget for labor cases

The U.S. government has also committed to assess any progress by Peru within nine months and thereafter as appropriate.