Workers in Ecuador have seen a gradual recovery of their fundamental rights over the last three years, with several areas pending, following a decade of restrictions on the freedom of association, with unions sympathetic to the government gaining ground at the expense of independent unions. Since 2016, there has been some relaxation of government control over unions, including the reform of Executive Order 193. Unions have seen a gradual recovery of dialogue with the government, although rebuilding social dialogue in the country remains a work in progress. Few workers are in unions, and despite some labor law reforms, unions and other civil society organizations can still be dissolved by the government under certain conditions.

The Ecuadorian economy suffers from an international debt burden accumulated over the last 15 years. Although Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas and exports coffee, shrimp and cocoa, despite the government’s attempts to diversify the economy, the country relies on oil export revenues which fluctuate with the price of oil.

Economic gains have not been shared among all Ecuadorans and significant challenges persist in reducing poverty and inequality and ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth. Workers in the country’s large informal economy are especially vulnerable because they are not covered by minimum wage laws or legally binding benefits and have few safety and health protections.

In this context, unions strive to improve worker rights, but with many workers in precarious economic situations, many fear they will lose their jobs if they denounce violations of their labor rights. Public employees are especially worried about job loss following mass dismissals of thousands of union activists in the public sector, reclassification of public workers into lesser-paying positions and government decrees restricting the scope of collective bargaining.

Solidarity Center programs in Ecuador educate workers about labor laws and equip them to monitor compliance with labor rights, negotiate with employers and advocate for their rights, all with an emphasis on democratic practices within their organizations and across society.

The Solidarity Center supports leadership development of young workers and working women who, in turn, will educate workers about their rights, strengthen union representation and carry out advocacy campaigns promoting new labor policies and legislation—for example, by participating in current discussions over revisions to the Labor Code and Social Security Law proposed in 2019.

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