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Hialpesa workers celebrate reinstatement of union leaders

13 September, 2023Workers at the Hialpesa textile factory in Peru are celebrating the reinstatement of a number of dismissed union leaders – a major victory for the union after four years of struggle.

On 28 August, the union leaders dismissed by Hialpesa, one of Peru’s largest and most profitable textile and garment companies, were reinstated. IndustriALL affilaite, Federation of Textile Workers of Peru (FNTTP), held a rally at the company in support of the Hialpesa union.

The conflict began in 2019 when the textile company announced that it was laying off 190 workers for economic, technological, structural and other reasons. Ninety-five of the workers laid off were members of the Hialpesa union, and eight were union leaders.

Hialpesa filed its request for the collective layoffs with the Labour Ministry. The Ministry then had responsibility for assessing the request and deciding whether the dismissals would be authorized.

Over the four years that followed, the Hialpesa union and the FNTTP held marches, rallies and cookouts in front of the Labour Ministry in solidarity with the workers, demanding that the company respect the workers’ rights.

FNTTP’s organizing secretary, Gerardo Olortegui Sifuentes, said:

“The company initiated the collective layoffs in June 2019 to try and disband the union. More than 20 workers have been reinstated by court order this year and last year, with seven union leaders reinstated last week. This is a major achievement for the FNTTP, after our long battle to defend the workers' rights.

"However, the proceedings are still ongoing for more than 70 workers, so our battle is not over yet. We’ve held protests at the Supreme Court to get them to move forward with the proceedings. The judges are taking years to get through the whole process. We believe that if it takes too long, it’s not justice.”

The underlying problem is that abusive employment practices – particularly through outsourcing and temporary contracts – are widespread in Peru and allow companies not to fulfil their responsibilities towards workers. Under Legislative Decree No. 728, it is possible for companies to hire people on a temporary basis and, thanks to Legislative Decree No. 22342 on so-called “non-traditional exports”, employers can treat workers as if they were in a permanent trial period.

Earlier this year, IndustriALL informed the Committee on the Application of Standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) that Peru’s laws do not comply with ILO conventions, which are binding under international law, and that there is a lack of enforcement of the country’s labour laws.

IndustriALL’s regional secretary Marino Vani said:

“We urge the Peruvian government, parliament and companies to bring their legislation and practices in line with international standards in order to strengthen collective bargaining, decent work and the right to freedom of association.

"We congratulate the FNTPP leadership for their efforts to stand up for and organize workers even though their union work is hindered by laws and government decrees. The struggle goes on!”