TRADE UNION RIGHTS
A. APPLICABLE LEGAL REGIMEN
Article XXII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man states that:1
Article XXII. Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.
The International American Charter of Social Guarantees (Article 26 and 27) stipulates as follows:2
Article 26. Workers and employees, without distinction of sex, race, creed or political ideas, have the right to associate freely for the defense of their respective interests, forming professional associations or trade unions, which may in turn federate among themselves. These organizations have the right to enjoy a legal personality and to be duly protected in the exercise of their rights. Their suspension or dissolution cannot be imposed except by due process of law.
The conditions of substance and form that may be required for the establishment and functioning of the professional and trade union organizations must not inhibit the freedom of association.
The establishment, operation and dissolution of federations and confederations shall be subject to the same conditions prescribed for trade unions.
Trade union officers, in the number established by the respective law, and during their term of office, cannot be fired, transferred or downgraded in their working conditions without just cause, previously determined by the competent authority.
Article 27. Workers have the right to strike. The conditions and exercise of such right are regulated by law.
The Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), as amended by the Buenos Aires Protocol (1967) established the following (Art. 43 c):3
c. Employers and workers, both rural and urban, have the right to associate themselves freely for the defense and promotion of their interests, including the right to collective bargaining and the workers’ right to strike, and recognition of the juridical personality of associations and the protection of their freedom and independence, all in accordance with applicable laws.
Trade union freedom is furthermore regulated internationally by current instruments of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which after ratification by the countries form part of the domestic law fully and directly applicable in the State Party. Thus, for example, Paraguay has ratified Conventions 87 (1948) on Trade Union Freedom and Protection of the Right Unionize (entered into effect on July 4, 1950) and 98 (1949) on Application of the Principles of the Right to Unionize and Collective Bargaining (effective on July 18, 1951).4
Hence the right to unionize, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike are part of the positive law of Paraguay, with the scope and characteristics granted thereto by Conventions 87 and 98, the basic principles of which are summarized below:
a) Workers have the right to form the organizations they deem expedient, as well as to join those organizations, with the sole condition that they observe the by-laws thereof;
b) The organizations have the right to draw up their by-laws, to elect their representatives freely, and to organize their management and activities and their program of action.
c) Labor organizations cannot be dissolved or suspended by administrative action;
d) The organizations have the right to constitute federations and confederations and to join international workers’ organizations;
e) The organizations have the right to obtain legal status without being subjected to any conditions that would limit trade union freedom;
f) The national legislation of a State Party may not limit nor lessen the guarantees set forth in international agreements;
g) Workers must enjoy adequate protection against discriminatory acts that might affect trade union freedom, especially the dismissal of workers reasons of their trade union activities;
h) The authorities of the States Parties must not interfere in the activities of the trade unions;
i) Agencies consistent with national conditions must be created to guarantee respect for the right to form trade unions as well as the full implementation of voluntary negotiation procedures to regulate working conditions by means of collective contracts;
j) Union organizations must respect the national laws of the respective country, but these laws must be compatible with the principles of trade union freedom;
k) The workers and, particularly, the trade union leaders must enjoy adequate protection against discrimination or acts that conflict with their trade union duties in respect to their employment.
In light of the principles and bases listed above, the purpose of this chapter is to survey the status of trade union rights in Paraguay since 1978 (when the IACHR published its last report on the Situation of Human Rights in that country).5
B THE CONSTITUTION AND TRADE UNION FREEDOM
Chapter V, Point 4 of the Constitution of Paraguay6 addresses the Rights of Workers (Article 104 through 110).
Article 109 guarantees the “freedom of manual, intellectual and profession workers, and of those who engaged in a similar activity as a means of livelihood, to form trade unions in the defense of their group aims,” adding that “Such unions shall be subjected to no requirements other than those established by law for the purpose of ensuring their democratic organization and functioning and guaranteeing the rights of their members.”
Article 110 stipulates the right of workers to strike, although it transfers the regulation of that right to the law “to assure that it is exercised according to democratic procedures and solely to defend trade-union interests.”
Although those provisions could be considered to conform to the principles of trade union freedom recognized by the ILO Constitution and the Declaration of Principles thereto,7 closer examination suggests the following considerations:
a) The Paraguayan Constitution does not establish a guarantee for the right to collective negotiation of labor contracts. This is an important omission, particularly since it involves a right closely linked to the right to strike.
b) Article 107 gives the authorities “control” of “work contracts, minimum wages, and the application of social security and social welfare benefits.” This seems to embody a restriction that exceeds the limits compatible with trade union freedom, one which might give rise to interference or action on the part of the public powers that could impair the principles of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 as well as other pertinent instruments.
c) The text of Article 110, on the right to strike, assigns the regulation thereof to the law in such ambiguous terms as “democratic procedures,” or broadly restrictive ones, such as “solely to defend trade union interests.” This terminology—the interpretation of which obviously left in each instance to the authorities—could in practice become severe constraint on this basic labor right.
d) The constitutional norms do not guarantee the right of trade unions to recognition of their legal status and protection of the freedom and independence. This is another important omission that could have pertinent practical consequences on the trade union regime. For this reason it would be preferable to have this right expressly stipulated in the Constitution.
e) Neither does the Paraguayan Constitution expressly guarantee the right to work without discrimination; nor the right that trade unions may be suspended or dissolved only by due process of law, as established in Article 26 of the International American Charter of Social Guarantees, with those included in Article 43 (Social Standards) of the OAS Charter (a treaty that has been signed and ratified by Paraguay). This is a further omission that conveys an idea of the restrictive nature of the Paraguayan constitutional provisions in respect to labor, and the limitations thereof when compared with applicable international law.
C. THE LABOR CODE 8
Approved by Law N° 729 of August 31, 1961, it has not been altered since then.
The Code recognizes the principles of trade union freedom and the right to unionize (“without the need for prior authorization”—Art. 281). It should nevertheless be stressed that Article 291 through 299 are excessively stringent as to the requirements for the formation of trade unions, the administration thereof, the admission and exclusion of members, the removal of officers, and even the procedure necessary for amendment of the by-laws, all of which seems to encroach on the intrinsic freedom of the trade unions.
The Code also recognizes (Art. 303) the unions’ right to set up federations and confederations, applying the same requirements for formation and administration as for the trade unions (Art. 305).
Article 347 et seq., which address the right to strike, have markedly restrictive features that give public authorities considerable leeway in limiting the right in question, judging by the tenor of Article 350. Articles 353 and 354 are also very strict in their requirements for the declaration of strikes, which in practice are impediments to the exercise of this right with the freedom stipulated by the ILO (Convention 98), the International American Charter, and the OAS Charter.
As in the case of the Constitution, the Labor Code could be termed a legal cover that is more in the nature of a statement than an effective guarantee of the rights listed therein.
D. STATUS OF TRADE UNION FREEDOM
A summary follows of events and situations relevant to trade union freedom IN Paraguay, based on information and data made available to the Commission.
The Confederation of Workers of Paraguay (CPT) was formed in 1951 by elements of the Colorado, Federista and Communist parties. It was dissolved in 1959, and its officials were persecuted and exiled. It now operates in exile in Brazil and Argentina. The official Confederation is an instrument of the regime and of the Partido Colorado, and its officers have been imposed by the Government. The National Council of Delegates does not operate, and the leaders do not even belong to the labor area. In general, the CPT is considered comparable to the Ministry of Labor.
All of the CPT leaders were reelected in 1986. The General Secretary of the Journalists’ Union (which the Government has refused to recognize) stated in ABC Color that the Confederation Paraguaya de Trabajadores is a group set up to repress any attempt on the part of the workers to defend their rights.
Paraguay has a long history of labor conflicts. After the suppression of the independent workers’ confederation (1959), its leaders were arrested and exiled. Since then, the above mentioned Paraguayan Workers’ Confederation (CPT), protected by the Government, has dominated the labor movement—despite the fact that it is considered to represent only about 2% of the trade union movement, since the Government, not the workers, elect its officers. Not one strike has been called since it was formed. As a result, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions expelled the CPT in 1979.
On September 27, 1985, the police attacked the Workers’ Assembly, arresting Sebastián Rodríguez, General Secretary of the Organization of Bus Drivers N° 21. Union leader Félix Sosa and lawyer Marcial González Safstrand were also detained.
In November 1985 the police continued their arbitrary arrests, detaining workers at Yacyretá, a hydroelectric plant on the border with Argentina. Juan C. Perez, Isabel Cáceres and Concepción Rodríguez were taken to Asunción and held at the Investigation Department without a court order for a number of days, according to information reported to the Commission.
The Confederation Paraguaya de Trabajadores is the country’s only labor organization that is recognized by the Government: it is dominated by the pro-Government Partido Colorado. Very few of the trade unions that include Government opponents belong to the CPT. Observers have noted that in recent years this Confederation has never exercised the right to strike, despite indications of shift toward independence and a more active position in the defense of the workers.
Sources have also indicated that there is not real trade union movement in Paraguay since the Confederación Paraguaya de Trabajadores (CPT), the only one to be recognized, is controlled by the Government and the Partido Colorado.
The same situation prevailed in 1981, and the CPT trade union leaders elected that year enjoyed full-fledged Government support. Meanwhile, it is noted that strikes are not permitted and that collective bargaining of labor contracts was thwarted by interference from private companies, despite (and contrary to) the guarantees set forth in the laws.
It has also been reported that no progress was made in 1982 and 1983 in regard to trade union freedom: the same restrictive conditions described for previous years continued to obtain. In 1984, however, certain developments within the Paraguayan trade union movement might cautiously be considered as an incipient show of free trade union activity, in spite of strict surveillance by Labor Ministry security forces, in which the leaders are frequently summoned for interrogation as to their activities. As mentioned earlier, in some cases they have been warned that they must change or moderate their conduct.
Despite the apparent trade union progress in 1984, a visit to Paraguay by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions late in 1983 ended with a highly critical analysis of the situation, and the statement that the Government of Paraguay was systematically violating the rights of workers.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) made a visit to Paraguay in June 1985 to verify the application of Convention 87 (Freedom of Association) and 98 (Right to Trade Union Organization and Free Collective Bargaining by Labor).
As a result of that visit the ILO expressed serious concern over the lack of guarantees for the rights protected by those conventions, particularly the prohibition of strikes in public sectors and dismissal without prior indemnification.
Although acceptance of that direct observation mission represented progress, it should be noted that up to that time, the Government had ignored the ILO decisions. The ILO made a number of recommendations for wider and better implementation of Conventions 87 and 98.
One of the documents considered by the Commission examines the contradiction between the guarantees of the trade union freedom and other labor rights provided in the Paraguayan Constitution and the Labor Code and the actual situation or rights in the country’s everyday life.9
It is said in this context that, generally speaking, there is no trade union organization in Paraguay that operates independently of the Government. Although Confederación Paraguay de Trabajadores (CPT) claims to be a free agency, this is highly debatable. Articles 109 and 110 of the Constitution guarantee the workers the right to strike and the right of freedom of association for the defense of their trade objectives. At the same time, Articles 104 and 108 guarantee and wide range of social and economic rights. The present situation of trade union rights nevertheless suggests that such rights are far from being recognized in practice.
In August 1978, the CPT leaders themselves stated that it had failed to accomplish its basic aims putting the workers’ interests at the service of causes other than labor and “very often contrary to the spirit and reason for existence of an institution such as the CPT, which begins and ends with the struggle for the well-being of thousands of men and women whose efforts and daily labor are strengthening the present and future of the homeland.”
In the Villarrica area between 1979 and 1980, a number of repressive acts by the Government against the peasant labor organizations were reported. They were characterized by their arbitrariness and violence as a means of convincing these campesinos to leave their farms, without any basis for such eviction.
Among those arrested and killed in these incidents were well known leaders of the Ligas Agrarias (Agrarian Leagues-unions of farm workers), whose members have long been threatened and subjected to arbitrary arrests and torture. Amnesty International addressed the President of the Republic, telling him of its concern over such detentions and attack and the safety of the prisoners held by the Villarrica Infantry Division given the record of that armed unit in previous detentions of peasants. On April 2, announced publicly that such acts were apparently designed to reactivate the Government’s repressive apparatus to quell the peasants’ attempts to organize themselves in leagues or trade unions.
The Commission was also informed that the trade union leader, Constantino Coronel, who was released on September 5, 1980, had been exiled. The authorities had originally accused him of common crimes.
The IACHR was also informed of the concern over the persecution of the Ligas Agrarias, an organization sponsored by the Catholic Church, which had been the target of intense Government efforts to eliminate it. The efforts finally succeeded, for its directors have been jailed or compelled to leave the country, as in the case of Emilio Roa Espinosa and Antonio Maidana, who are living in exile in Buenos Aires.
In 1980 the detention of journalists, political leaders and students was accompanied by that of Angel Eustacia Rodríguez Benítez, a bricklayer and trade union leader who was arrested on May 30 of that year on his way back from Argentina to Asunción. He was reported to have been taken to the Investigation Department where he was held for several months and tortured before he was transferred to the Tacumbú National Penitentiary. Tried in August 1981 pursuant of Law 209, he was accused of being a communist and sentenced to three years of prison.
A number of public petitions were organized in May 1983 on behalf of more than 30 persons detained in Asunción. They included several trade union leaders employed by the Paraguayan Data Bank (BPD) and the Estudio Gráfico a printing company. In September of that year, three of the detainees were still in the Tacumbú National Penitentiary: Roberto Antonio Villalba, Enrique Gossen Martens and Desiderio Arzamendia López. All three were accused of violating Law 209 of 1970, which, it was said, “is applied indiscriminately against any person who attempts to exercise his rights.”
In April 1986, Amnesty International sent a delegation to Paraguay to investigate the alleged arbitrary detention and torture of peasants who had taken part in the land disputes and evictions. The victims were usually communal leaders who had been negotiating these issues with the Rural Welfare Institute (Instituto de Bienestar Rural—IBR). In this instance, Pedro Ayala (Chairman of the Local Committee) was detained in June 1984 and released in 1985. As a result of its visit, Amnesty asked the Government to protect the peasants communities to avoid evictions from their land.10
A report of the International Labor Organization’s Administrative Council11 refers case Nº 854, presented by the Central Latino-Americana de Trabajadores and the Confederación Mundial de Trabajadores against the Government of Paraguay.
The case involves the detention of Domingo Melchor and Santiago Rolón Centurión, brothers of the murdered trade union leader, Martino Rolón Centurión; the proceedings instituted against union members José Gil Ojeda Falkan; and allegations of torture of various union members during their detention.
The Government alleged that the detention order for Ojeda Falkan had been issued in 1976 for violation of Law 209 (of 1970) on public peace and personal freedom. No information was given, however, about the Rolón Centurión brothers or the allegations or torture of the other union members.
The report says that in its examination of the case, the ILO Committee noted “the considerable delay between the detention order (for Ojeda) and the time when he was brought before a judge to answer the charges against him.” The Committee recommended that he be tried promptly and that the sentence be announced. There was also a recommendation that the Government report on the situation of the Rolón brothers and the alleged torture of the other union members who had been arrested.
Finally, the Committee expressed its deep concern over the fact that on several occasions the Government had offered to furnish the information necessary for examination of the case, but that it had never been received, which meant that the Committee had to pursue its study of the case without such data.
As to the detention of the Rolón brothers and Mr. Ojeda Falkan, the Committee said that “the arrest of trade union leaders, even for reasons of internal security, constituted a serious interference with the right to trade union freedom unless the detainees were given adequate legal guarantees.” It asked the Government to submit as detailed as possible a report on the accusations and especially on the legal procedures to which the accused had been submitted, as well as the texts of the sentences or verdicts issued, so that the Committee could examine the case with the necessary data.
A report of the ILO Administration Council12 summarizes the complaint or denunciation presented by the International Confederation of Free Trade Union Organizations, jointly with the Confederation of Paraguayan Workers in Exile (CPTE), on the Government’s attempts to block the formation of a trade union by workers at the Itaipú dam, given the suppression of all initiatives to that end, thus violation ILO Conventions 87 and 98. A complaint was also lodged about the violation of other trade union norms in such fields as hygiene, housing, hospitals, teaching, day nurseries, and mothers’ training centers.
The Government’s reply denied charges. Although the Committee was concerned about the events, it decided not to continue examining the case.
An ILO bulletin includes the following:13
The Secretary General of the Movimiento Intersindical de Trabajadores (MUTP) was detained on Wednesday, March 18, for having convened and participated in a trade union meeting organized under the slogan of “trade unionism, fair wages and work for all.”
Comrade Víctor Báez was held incommunicado for 36 hours in a common cell at the Asunción Central Police Barracks. It goes on to say “Comrade Báez was released for lack of evidence and pressure of the trade union movement. ICFTU/ORIT immediately launched an international campaign, sending protest cables against the Stroessner regime and complaints to the ILO, demanding his unconditional release.”
According to the chronology of events in Paraguay, this is what happened:
a) Ardulfo Coronel. Coordinator of the Movimiento Sindical Campesino del Paraguay was arrested (without charges) in his hometown of Santa Rosa, Misiones. He and his nephew Hilarión were held incommunicado until March 9.
b) Dr. Carlos Filizzola (26), President of the Asociación Médica de Hospitales, was arrested on May 2 and held incommunicado at the Investigation Department in Asunción pursuant to Article 79 of the Constitution (state of siege). On May 31, 1986, he was released, presumably because a strike was called at the Hospital de Clínicas and through the invention of Archbishop Ismael Rolón.
c) On October 31, 100 medical students marched to the Palace of the Congress to ask for increased salaries at the Hospital de Clínicas. The participants were violently put down, and 11 were wounded.
d) Medical student Héctor Lacoznata, representative of the Clinical Hospital Doctors and Nurses Association, was arrested by the police and then transferred to Tacumbú prison, where he was held incommunicado and could be visited only by his mother. He has been accused of subversion pursuant to Law 209, and was paroled on December 23 by Penal Judge Soto Estigarribia.
e) María Herminia Feliciangeli and her husband, Benjamín Ranson Livieres, a reporter of La Tarde and member of the independent journalists’ trade union, were detained without a warrant by men in civilian clothes near the Hoy newspaper on October 24, 1986. Both belong to independent unions. They were taken to Investigaciones and then transferred, respectively, to Buen Pastor and Tucambú. Only the mother of one of them was allowed to visit—otherwise they were held incommunicado. A writ of habeas corpus was presented to the Supreme Court of Justice. Both were accused under Law 209. The wife was released on December 17, but her trial continues. Mr. Livieres was given conditional freedom on December 30, 1986.
In the interview, he indicated that there was no opposition from the Ministry of Labor to his return, in which the ILO also intervened.14
The following was also reported in the Daily Report:15
Several trade unions have published a press communique denouncing the arrest of Pedro Salcedo, Secretary General of the Paraguayan Cotton Company Trade Union (CAPSA), by the police on March 28, 1987. The Movimiento Intersindical (MIT) has stated that “this is a case of persecution and harassment of CAPSA union leaders because both the police and the Confederación Paraguay de Trabajadores are using very possible means to keep CAPSA from holding a general assembly. It went to say: “It should be remembered that CAPSA was attacked last February by the CPT Secretary General, accompanied by Senator Manuel Fontos Pane.”
Other sources reported that Raquel Aquino, member of the Business Workers sector and the Employees’ Trade Union (SEOC) had been subjected to mental torture, clearly for the purpose of dominating or controlling her activities, violating her fundamental human rights.
The arrest of Pedro Salcedo, mentioned earlier, was also reported, with the added news of the constant police attacks on the cotton trade union and the arrest of the TAVAPY II agrarian settlement and the Sindicato Nacional Campesino union leaders, who were also incommunicado. Joint army and police forces ousted the peasants from the TAVAPY II settlement by force, subjecting them to all sorts of mistreatment. The peasants had been refusing to leave their land.
A report on the situation on human rights in Paraguay cites the following events involving trade union freedom and the peasants’ trade organizations’ “struggle for their land and their lives”:16
a) The prelate of Encarnación (Itapua Department, at the border with Argentina) issued a statement categorically denouncing the mass violation of the peasants’ rights. He said that roughly 650 families had been victims or arbitrary measures, kidnapping, destruction and seizure of land—which gives an idea of the oppression suffered by the country’s campesino population.
b) An article dated September 3, 1986 and entitled “Landless Peasants” includes the following statement:
A group of representative of local and international human rights agencies, journalists, religious organizations and trade unions has confirmed that unarmed peasants have been violently evicted from their land by police and army forces. As a result, twenty peasants were seized, and their whereabouts are not known.
c) The great majority of the workers trade unions have not legal standing. They are simply considered to be de facto groups who are constantly fighting for minimal rights. “In labor circles, the most recent repression was directed towards the workers at the Clinical Hospital, particularly the nurses, whose financial straits forced them to ask for an increase, since they were being paid less than the legal minimum.”
The systematic persecution of the hospital staff contained throughout 1986. In October of that year the police used truncheons on the demonstrators, leaving many wounded and others bruised. “The brutality of the police attack gave observers and example of how the right of meeting and association is respected in Paraguay.”
d) Another union group being persecuted is that of the journalists. Two members of that union are under arrest now, as noted by Sendero (the Catholic Church magazine). “Detentions of this sort are part of the repressive action taken against the trade unions by the police, who once again acted without authorization from the competent authority, thus violating the basic trade union freedom that is guaranteed by the Constitution and the law.”
e) Workers of the recently established trade union at Yacyretá, a hydroelectric plant on the border between Paraguay and Argentina (build with financial aid from Italy, France, the United States and Canada) were arrested only two months after setting up the union.
During the 17th session of the International Labor Organization (ILO), held in Geneva in 1985, the Paraguayan Government requested the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations to send a ‘direct contact’ mission to Paraguay to observe the way in which the country was applying Conventions 87 and 98 on trade union freedom and the rights of collective bargaining and strike. The discussion of that petition emphasized the availability of having the on-site mission examine the cases pending before the Committee on Trade Union Freedom as well.
The mission took place September 23-27, 1985, with a visit (September 21) to Buenos Aires to interview the officers of the Confederation in exile.
The mission visited high Government authorities, including the Minister of Justice and Labor, Mr. Eugenio Jacquet; the Director of Labor Mr. Carlos Doldan del Puerto; and other officials in the Ministry Labor. It also interviewed trade union leaders from the Confederación Paraguaya de Trabajadores (CPT); Federación de Producción, Industria y Comercio (EPRINCO); Sindicato Nacional de la Construcción (SINATRAC); Federación de Empleados de Bancos (FETRAPAN); Movimiento Intersindical de Trabajadores (MIT), and, as noted above, the Confederación de Trabajadores Paraguayos en el Exilio (CTPE).
A summary of the highlights of the report follows:18
a) It was not possible to interview the Minister of the Interior, to whom the Mission wished to submit specific allegations within his purview, i.e., I) Case 1204, before the ILO since Mayo 20, 1983, involving the arbitrary arrest of 19 members of the Sindicato de la Solidaridad (MSS) as part of a campaign of labor repression. O that number, 13 were in prison for more than a year, charged with violating the principles of trade union freedom. As part of this case the Mission asked the Government to present its opinion on: the arrest of Stella Ufinelli, Margarita Ellias, Damian Vera, Juan Carlos Oviedo, and María Herminia Feliciangeli, members of the MSS; the case of the Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), which had tried for four years to secure legal status; the threats of exile to its leaders; the arrest and trial of director Alcebíades González del Valle, Aldo Zucalillo, Dr. Jorge Alvaranga and Mr. Carlos Cuevas during a trade union meeting; the arbitrary dismissal of workers at La Americana S.A. following the presentation of various petitions by the workers; the threat of dismissal of 800 workers at FRISA S.A., followed by the workers; the request for payment of back wages; and the shutdown of Radio Ñandutí for transmitting messages from the Confederation of Paraguayan Workers in Exile (CPTE); and ii) Case 1341 before the ILO, since June 1985, involving the police persecution of union leader Ricardo Esperanza Leyva, who since his return to the country after several years of exile has been constantly harassed by the authorities, preventing him from performing any union duties.
b) During the meeting with the CPTE the Buenos Aires (September 21), that Confederation stated the need for a guarantee of the safety of Mr. Juilo Etcheverry Espinola, CTPE Secretary General, and asked that the ILO request this of the Government, since Etcheverry would soon be returning to the country.
c) The Direct Contact Mission also addressed developments in Case Nº 1275 before the ILO since 1984, involving employees of the Bank of Brazil trade union, particularly the firing of its members Rolando Duarte, Adolfo Virgili and Guillermo Cáceres. It was found in connection with this case that the new collective labor contract had reached an impasse.
d) Developments in cases Nos. 1328 and 1301, before the ILO since 1985 and 1984, respectively, were also investigated:
i) Case 1328, presented by the International Federation of Free Trade Union (ICFTU), denouncing the arbitrary arrest of union leaders Melanio Morel, Gregorio Ojeda, Pedro Zárate, Carlos Castillo and Nicasio Guzmán, members of SINATRAC, from whose posts they were removed by express order of the Labor Ministry.
ii) Case 1301, presented by the International Federation of Free Trade Union (ICFTU), denouncing the arbitrary arrest of union leaders Melanio Morel, Gregorio Ojeda, Pedro Zárate, Carlos Castillo and Nicasio Guzmán, members of SINATRAC, from whose posts they were removed by express order of the Labor Ministry.
e) The Contact Mission stated for the record its concern over the situation of trade union freedom in Paraguay.
Based on the foregoing date and information, the following prima facie conclusions may be drawn on the status of trade union freedom in Paraguay:
Constitutional guarantees, particularly those in articles 109 and 110, are inadequate and do not reflect the international commitments undertaken by the country. The wording is anachronistic: it should describe basic union rights more fully and precisely, without assigning the guarantees of such rights to the law when—20 years after those articles were promulgated and 28 years after the Labor Code was adopted—no legislation whatsoever has been adopted that incorporates into Paraguayan internal law the international norms the country is required to meet and respect.
In addition to the shortcomings and restrictions of the Paraguayan Constitution in the area of trade union freedom, the authorities neither respect nor implement the few guarantees stipulated by the Constitution. As a result, such guarantees may be said to represent simple declarative statements with no practical value or effective validity, retained for deliberate purpose of serving as a “screen” or legalistic cover to conceal the disregard for union rights and the repression of both urban and rural working classes.
There is no constitutional guarantee that explicitly entitles the trade unions to recognition of their legal status.
Although Paraguay has ratified the OAS Charter, as amended by the Buenos Aires Protocol (which provides for basic trade union rights) and their interests. They cannot choose their union leaders freely. They cannot meet without official interference. They are not free to affiliate spontaneously adopt by-laws regulating their national organizations. All these factors constitute overt and repeated violation by the Paraguayan Government of its own pertinent legal instruments and relevant international commitments.
The union leaders enjoy no protection from the law for the performance of their union duties. To the contrary: many have been killed in violent circumstances, concomitant with trade union repression, while others have been arbitrarily thrown into prison and then forced into exile. In other all too frequent instances, union leaders have been subjected to threats, pressure, abuse and arbitrary detention by the Labor Ministry to force them to conform to the interests of the Government or of the Paraguayan Workers’ Confederation (CPT), which has been controlled by the Government and the Partido Colorado since 1958.
The right to collective bargaining of labor contracts and the right to strike are set forth in restrictive terms, delegating the regulation thereof to the law. As with other union rights, this has meant an absence of regulation prejudicial to the workers’ rights. In practice, the authorities quash strikes by violent means, as they did recently in the cases of the hospitals and the Agrarian Leagues.
The Labor Code (Law 729 of 1961) is another text that fails to reflect the country’s international labor commitments. It follows the constitutional model, i.e., the formal, restrictive statement of dependence on public authority incompatible with the rights established by ILO Conventions 87 and 98, especially in regard to the right to strike (Arts. 347 through 363).
Paraguay’s trade union system does not represent the interests of the country’s workers, and is dominated by the public authorities. As a result of this scenario—which has existed since 1958 when the real Paraguayan Workers Confederation was dissolved by violence—the trade union movement and freedoms have been more or less constantly repressed. This is a complete violation of internal laws and international agreements, as substantiated by the ILO Direct Contact Mission’s visit to Paraguay in 1985. The objectivity and professional relevancy of that Mission’s report warrant full acceptance by the Commission.
1 Ninth International Conference, Bogotá (1948), Resolution XXX, II Supplement (1945-1954), p. 203 et seq. The same right is recognized in Articles 20 and 23 (4) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Paris, December, 1948).
2 Idem. Resolution XXIX, p. 195 et seq.
3 Basic Instruments of the OAS, Treaty series No. 61, OEA/Ser.X/II: Social Standards, p. 12. This provision corresponds to Article 44,c of the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias [OEA/Ser.P/AG/doc.16 (XIV-E/85)] Rev. 2, February 26, 1986
4. Ratified by the Laws of August 31, 1961, respectively. See also ILO Conventions and Recommendations, Geneva, 1966, pp. 707 and 831, respectively.
5. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.43, doc.13 corr. 1, cit.
6. Official edition, 1969.
7. Philadelphia, 1944.
8. Law 729 of August 31, 1961, reedited.
9. Mbarete. En guaraní, “the Arrogance of power.” The higher law of Paraguay, International League of Human Rights, 1981, pp. 191 et seq.
10. Amnesty International Report, 1986, p. 185.
11. ILO GB 213/8/13, May-June 1980, pp. 12 and 13.
12. Case No. 1027, March 1982, GB 219/6/17.
13. March 1987, Vol. I, No. 2, p.4.
14 September 3, 1986, pp. H2 and 3, Vol. VI, No. 170.
15 April 9, 1987, Vol. VI, No. 068, p. H1.
16. Office of Human Rights for Latin America, World Council of Churches, Switzerland, February 1987, pp. 8-10.
18. ILO Committee on Trade Union Freedom, Report No. 241, 1985, pp. 218-236.