Peru

In partnership with Peru’s national labor confederations and mining, garment and agriculture federations, the Solidarity Center provides local unions with hands-on assistance and training in membership building, collective bargaining and women’s representation so they can better represent vulnerable workers who often do not have a voice at the workplace.

Peru experienced an economic boom in the 2000s and by 2011, had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Yet despite the country’s significant gains, driven primarily by robust exports, Peru still faces challenges in translating economic growth and electoral democracy into social inclusion and effective day-to-day governance.

Economic growth in Peru’s export-driven sectors has not resulted in better working conditions, equitable distribution of wealth or increased respect for worker rights. Workers in many of these areas are categorized as working poor. An October 2013 report by Otra Mirada found only 12 percent of the economically active population has “decent work”—that is, jobs with family-supporting wages, safe workplaces and social protections.

Persistent economic inequality and worker rights’ violations in the export industry are fueled by two closely-linked factors: Laws that allow for short-term, fixed-term contracts and subcontracts, and the low-level of union representation in export industries. When employers subcontract, they limit the size of a company’s permanent workforce, making it more difficult to negotiate better conditions. Many businesses, including export industries, hire temporary workers, who are essentially barred from participating in unions due to fear that their contracts might not be renewed.

With few workers in unions, effective advocacy for workplace improvement is limited. As a result, more and more workers are forced to labor in the informal economy, where jobs with low wages and few or no social protections are replacing formal economy employment, a workforce shift that fosters underemployment and adds to growing economic and social exclusion.

In agriculture, where young women comprise half of the workforce, wages have significantly stagnated. Both men and women report being bonded laborers in agriculture. Thousands more are estimated to toil in forced labor in mining, forestry, brick making and domestic service.

By concentrating its outreach among vulnerable workers in the mining, textile and export-agriculture industries, the Solidarity Center assists Peruvian unions, the democratic representatives of workers, in tackling the enormous challenge of social and economic inequity and redefine the framework that governs decent economic opportunity.

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