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Unions reject disastrous Peruvian reforms

18 July, 2014Unions in Peru are fighting to stop a harmful package of economic incentives from becoming law. The proposed measures are aimed at attracting foreign investment and boosting growth at the expense of workplace health and safety and the environment.

The package was approved by Congress on July 3 and could be signed into law as early as next week. IndustriALL Global Union has written to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala urging him to shelve the proposed measures and instead to engage with trade unions and other interested parties in a debate on growing the economy while ensuring full respect for labour, social and environmental rights.

In its letter, IndustriALL stressed the importance of promoting sustainable development so that the needs of the present can be met without sacrificing the needs of future generations.

In an attempt to reactivate the economy, the Ollanta government is caving to employer pressure and backtracking on advances made earlier in its three-year administration.

In 2008, the then newly-elected government passed a law on workplace health and safety with the promise of forging a new culture of risk prevention and enforcement through labor-management health and safety committees.  Employers resisted implementing the law, with disastrous results: 436 workers have died in the last three years in industrial accidents.

The government is now letting employers have their own way with a series of cost-cutting measures that will allow them to outsource accident prevention to third-party service providers, reduce the frequency of health testing, limit the time available for trade unionists to be involved in health and safety issues, and decrease fines and criminal penalties in cases of violations.

The government is also turning back the clock on environmental regulation.  The proposed changes would weaken the regulating body OEFA and the Environment Ministry which was created in 2008 as a condition for signing a free-trade agreement with the U.S. The proposed changes will also reduce fines in the event of environmental damage and speed up the approval process for permits in key sectors such as mining and energy, which is likely to increase social conflicts over the use of natural resources.