Peruvian Unions Build Global Support for Repeal of Textile Law

Peruvian textile unions are gaining broad international support for repeal of a law that limits garment worker rights. The 1978 law subjects workers to temporary contracts without the right to collectively bargain, strike or join a union. Between 80 and 100 percent of the country’s textile workers are on short-term contracts, an employment tactic that enables employers in Peru and around to world deny workers job security, seniority rights and health benefits, often while paying them low wages.

Since passage of the law, Peru’s textile industry has grown by 2,000 percent, yet garment workers sometimes labor up to 14 hours a day to earn a minimum wage, which represents only a quarter of what they need to survive.

“Some people … have worked 25 years on temporary contracts of six months or less,” said IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina, during a recent trip to Peru to meet with employers, government officials and lawmakers to call for repeal of the law. In March, six international apparel companies signed a letter to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala Tassosupporting repeal of the Non-Traditional Export Promotion Law, Decree 22342. The corporations, which include Nike and the parent companies of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, argued that the law’s repeal would demonstrate the government’s support for decent working conditions.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has repeatedly urged the government to repeal the law, a move supported by the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGWLF), the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers (ICEM).

Raina and the global union movement also are urging the Peruvian Congress to pass a bill introduced more than a year ago that would ensure equal rights for textile and garment workers. The bill is stuck in a congressional committee.

In 2011, a court ruled in favor of 129 textile workers whose contracts were not renewed, finding that some of the workers had worked up to 10 years on short-term contracts. In the ruling, the judge stated that Decree 22342 and its “exceptional” short-term contracting scheme were no longer necessary to support the growth of the country’s textile and apparel sector.

In fact, Peru has pledged to double its textile and apparel exports—which make up 60 percent of Peru’s value-added exports—by 201