5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliate in Ecuador is the Central Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones Clasistas Unitarias de Trabajadores (CEDOCUT).

Ecuador ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1967 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1959.

In practice

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Mass dismissals in the public sector03-11-2019

The vice president of CEDOCUT (Confederación Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones Clasistas Unitarias de Trabajadores), Edwin Bedoya, denounced the Ecuadorian government for cutting jobs in the public sector, at the request of business sectors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), following the dismissals of around 10,000 public workers. The health sector was one of the hardest hit. The FET (Federación Ecuatoriana de Trabajadores) workers’ federation called on grassroots unions, social and community organisations to remain united and on the alert regarding the measures being taken by the government.

Trade unions demand an end to state violence and call for the release of detained demonstrators09-10-2019

Hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians took to the streets throughout the country at the beginning of October. The protests were called by student, farm worker and indigenous organisations and the FUT (Frente Unitario de Trabajadores), an umbrella organisation that includes the ITUC-affiliated union centre CEDOCUT.

The government responded by declaring a state of emergency and deploying heavy-handed riot police against the protesters. Hundreds of people were arrested and at least one person was killed in the clashes. On Tuesday 8 October, as military tanks were being deployed in the capital, Quito, President Moreno moved the government to the coastal city of Guayaquil for fear of the demonstrations.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the FUT called for an end to the state violence and the release of the demonstrators detained and condemned the public forces’ abuse of authority during the protests.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a report with its observations on the matter following the visit made to Ecuador after the protests, urging the authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate any complaints of violence and to establish the punitive measures applicable to the police and security agents responsible for excessive use of force as well as the citizens who engaged in acts of aggression and looting.

Union leaders arrested following demonstrations08-10-2019

Demonstrations against the sharp increase in fuel prices, held on 3 and 4 October in Quito, were harshly repressed, resulting in one death, 73 injuries and 477 arrests. The president of FEDOTAXIS (Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Transporte en Taxis), Jorge Calderón, was subsequently prosecuted by the Ecuadorian Public Prosecutor’s Office for paralysing a public service. The general secretary of the union representing drivers in Azuay and the president of the Chamber of Transport in Cuenca (CTC) were also prosecuted on the same charges. They were not, in the end, given prison sentences but were barred from leaving the country.

Dismissals at FCME to cover up misuse of public funds 05-09-2018

Between 30 August and 3 September 2018, the FCME (Ecuadorian Teachers’ Severance Fund), dismissed 90 employees, including members of the Works Council, affiliated to the FUT (Frente Unitario de Trabajadores), for refusing to sign the institution’s financial statements and documents. The workers pointed out that the reports had been manipulated to cover up acts of corruption committed by previous administrations, and explained that they would not assume criminal and disciplinary liability for the misuse of public funds. On 5 September, a group of former employees went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the drastic situation in which the dismissed workers found themselves. As a result, the BIESS (the public bank managing the funds of the Ecuadorian Social Security Fund – IESS), which is in charge of the fund, terminated the contract of FCME general manager Robert Andrade, and appointed a temporary commission to manage the institution and to review each of the dismissals in detail. The FCME has been gradually reinstating the workers.

Precarious state employment denying labour and trade union rights09-07-2018

In June 2018, the national government ordered all public institutions in the country to halt all temporary hiring, to reduce public spending. The government’s aim is to put an end to over 160,000 temporary contracts, including at least 75,000 in the form of occasional services and 70,000 provisional appointments. The state has been using these contractual arrangements for the performance of activities that come under its management, without having to shoulder the labour, trade union and pension costs attached to permanent contracts. Yet when it needs to cut costs, it is these precarious employment ties that it cuts, referring to them as “irregular” or “unnecessary” and transferring the workload to the permanent staff. It should also be pointed out that given the fragility of their employment relationships, these temporary workers avoid joining a union in order to secure future contracts with the administration.

Ministry of Labour denies trade union registration13-06-2018

Workers of Transportes Noroccidental Cía. Ltda. of Ecuador continue to wait for a fair response from the Ministry of Labour to their request to register a trade union. The workers filed the registration form in 2016 when 22 workers were then dismissed by their influential employer, who chairs a federation of heavy transport in Ecuador and prevents the formation of a union in the company he owns. The employer has continued to threaten those who are still working in the company, and those who have been dismissed have been blacklisted, which makes it impossible for them to get a new job. The BWI Regional Representative, Nilton Freitas, recently requested the President of the Republic, Lenin Moreno, to act promptly in order to reinstall dismissed workers and accept the union registration that has been ignored by the Ministry of Labour. On May Day, workers of the nascent union organisation expressed their dissatisfaction in the streets of Quito with banners and slogans. Striking workers protested against the illegal action of the Ministry of Labour and the impunity with which the employer can dismiss, intimidate and blacklist workers so that they cannot find other jobs in the heavy transport industry.

Workers dismissed for organising unions26-02-2018

After long-outstanding wage irregularities, a group of 150 workers from Transportes Noroccidental Cía. Ltda. decided to form a union, presenting documentation to the labour authorities on 12 December 2016. The Ministry of Labour registered the request six days later. At this time, the main union leader, Víctor Hugo Obando Galván, was dismissed and the company began a campaign to discredit and intimidate other union leaders. Since December 2016, 22 workers, all members of the union, have been progressively dismissed.
“We were contacted by the management and under coercion made to sign letters of retractions to belong to the union,” recounted Obando Galván. The company then used this argument to file an administrative appeal by which it requested the Ministry of Labour to refuse registration of the trade union. "This is an anti-union practice that employers in Ecuador often appeal to.”
Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) have denounced these unlawful dismissals. “Being able to form or join the trade union of one’s choosing is a fundamental right for workers,” said BWI Latin America Regional Representative Nilton Freitas. “It is time that Transportes Noroccidental stopped these attacks on workers who are simply trying to improve their working conditions.”

Anti-union practices to stop workers organising in agricultural sector 03-10-2017

During the First International Meeting of Banana Workers, organised by the Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas y Campesinos (ASTAC) and held in Guayaquil on 3 October 2017, workers denounced anti-union practices on certain plantations in Ecuador, where employers use intimidation, threats and dismissals to block workers’ attempts to organise.

Repression during Labour Day march 01-05-2017

On 1 May 2017, activists, trade unionists and citizens marched in Quito to commemorate Labour Day. Eleven people were arrested during the march and Patricia Echavarría, who was part of a group of women trade unionists and activists, was assaulted by police officers, who attempted to detain her for taking part in the march.

Restrictions on organising in public sector11-02-2017

The public sector was a key target of major reforms affecting trade union and labour rights. The government, disregarding the workers’ voice, launched a campaign of persecution and took steps to progressively eradicate associations, taking a particularly aggressive approach during 2015 and 2016.

Although the right to organise and to strike exist in law, exercising these rights is impracticable, given the complete ban on stoppages in all public services, without regard for ILO regulations concerning the definition of essential services where the right to strike would be restricted. Public employees staging strikes and bringing their services to a standstill face investigation and prosecution on charges of sabotage, terrorism, trespassing public buildings and threating national security.

In 2016, the ability to exercise the right to collective bargaining was suppressed. The result is a decline in union membership and trade unions, as the suppression of collective agreements undermines the very essence of these organisations, the purpose of which is to defend their members’ individual and collective rights.

Various public sector institutions are refusing to apply the check-off system for the payment of union dues and others, such as the state oil company Petroecuador, are illegally withholding these dues. The systematic violations of freedom of association have led to the proliferation of pro-government parastatal workers’ organisations. Examples are the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), which supports the government’s positions and neutralises the Frente Unitario de Trabajadores (FUT) and the Red de Maestros, set up to counteract the Unión Nacional de Educadores (UNE).

Obstacles to registering civil society organisations: CUCOMITAE complaint31-12-2016

Civil society organisations, such as the Confederación Unitaria Comerciantes Minoristas y Trabajadores Autónomos del Ecuador (CUCOMITAE), denounced the excessive red tape and prerequisites hampering the registration of organisations, which amount, in practice, to a violation of the right to freedom of association.

By December 2016, the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) had not yet assigned the organisations to the respective ministries, in accordance with their areas of responsibility, leaving many associations unregistered. In the case of the CUCOMITAE, by agreement with the MIES, the organisation was to be reassigned to the Superintendency of the People’s and Solidarity Economy, but this procedure had not yet been completed by the close of this report.

The policy of the Labour Ministry is to only register recently established self-employed workers’ organisations. Older organisations are left unregistered, which limits their activities. Similar barriers are encountered in the registration of national confederations as well as provincial and local federations that do not have the statutory quorum requiring the affiliation of at least five organisations. As a result, the organisations wishing to register are left defenceless.

In accordance with Decree 16 (now Decree 739), organisations not regularised under the Single Register of Social Organisations (RUOS) lose their legal status within a year. The complications involved in registering are likely to result in the disappearance of many organisations.

Arrest of indigenous leader Agustin Wachapá21-12-2016

In December of 2016, dozens of police arrived without an arrest warrant to the headquarters of the Shuar Federation (FISCH) located in the Ecuadorian Amazon and arbitrarily beat, tortured and detained its president, Agustin Wachapá. Then, the police razed the Shuar Federation’s office—turning over furniture and carrying away computers. Wachupá is being kept in a maximum-security prison near Quito, despite a call from Amnesty International to respect his judicial rights.

Agustin Wachapá was accused of publicly calling for the mobilization and violent resistance of the Shuar communities against state security forces in San Juan Bosco. The conflict started because the indigenous community in Nankints was evicted and had their homes demolished against their will to make way for the Chinese Explorcobres S.A. (EXSA) open-cut copper mine. They tried twice to retake their land. On December 14th, the second attempt resulted in the death of a police officer and wounded seven other members of the state security forces.

After this, more than 8000 militaries took the zone and the government declared a State of Emergency and suspending basic rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and due process under law, as well as granting the military the exceptional power to enter private residences and arbitrarily detain people without warrants or evidence. The leaders of the Shuar called upon the United Nations and other international human rights organizations to monitor the militarization of these lands.

Besides this persecution against Wachapá, other three leaders of the Shuar Jose Isidro Tendetza Antun (2014), Bosco Wisum (2009) and Freddy Taish in 2013 were violently murdered for opposing the mining industry. In some of the cases the witnesses pointed out that the perpetrators were employees of the Chinese mine. This means that these violations are part of a systematic behaviour against the organization.

ASTAC not recognised30-10-2016

In October 2016, the Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas Bananeros y Campesinos (ASTAC) denounced the violation of banana workers’ right to freedom of association. According to the ASTAC, the latest census of the banana sector identified 2,588 small banana plantations employing 15,474 workers. Each of these plantations employed fewer than 30 workers, on average, which is the minimum number required to form a union under Ecuadorian law. As a result, banana workers are unable to exercise their fundamental right to join or form a union.

ASTAC was founded in a bid to represent all the workers in the sector. The Labour Ministry of Ecuador is, however, refusing to register the union on the basis that its members do not come under a single employer.

ASTAC organised workers at CEINCONSA, FRUTSESA and VIESFRUT, which responded with attacks on the unionised employees. The general secretary of the union at FRUTSESA received threats, and at VIESFRUT the management hired gunmen to evict the union leaders from the plantation. Banana sector workers continue to face persistent violations of human, trade union and labour rights. The trade union first denounced the oppressive conditions and fundamental rights violations on banana plantations back in 2010 following meetings with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

Longest-standing teachers’ union dissolved by Labour Ministry08-09-2016

In July 2016, the Education Ministry dissolved the main and oldest trade union of public sector teachers, the Unión Nacional de Educadores (UNE). The decision was taken on the pretext that the teachers’ union was not complying with its own rules, was in breach of the obligations provided for in the constitution and was engaging in prohibited activities. The union called for the administrative proceedings against it to be declared invalid, based on the lack of clarity regarding the motives for its dissolution.

The organisation’s leadership had denounced other attacks on it, such as the elimination of the right to collect union dues and the persecution of its leaders. It was also confronted with legal proceedings and its premises were raided. Four computers were seized along with institutional documents, and the leaders present were forced out of the premises.

On 8 September 2016, the trade union requested proceedings to protect its rights. Its request was refused. The union subsequently turned to international bodies such as the ILO and the United Nations. UN rapporteurs responded by requesting the Ecuadorian authorities to cancel the dissolution process. Education International (IE), to which the UNE is affiliated, called on its affiliates to press Ecuador’s Education Ministry to withdraw the legal notice of dissolution. The government did not, however, respond to these calls and continued with the process.

The trade union has been tagged as a leader of opposition to the government. According to the UNE, the authorities are acting in retaliation for the complaints regarding the government’s systematic violations of freedom of association taken to the annual International Labour Conference of the ILO and the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Barriers to collective bargaining at Aerolane30-07-2016

In July 2016, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Aerolane (SITA) denounced that workers are not covered by a collective agreement and therefore have no mechanism to collectively tackle the mass dismissals and budget cuts arising from programmes being implemented by the company, which have had a devastating impact on working conditions. The trade union has been demanding a collective agreement with the company for seven years and has been confronted not only with a total refusal but also relentless attacks.

According to a report received from the network of LATAM Airlines Group trade unions, to which Aerolane belongs (LATAM Ecuador), the company has a policy of systematic union busting, manifested through the dismissal of trade union leaders who organise workers so that they can negotiate their working conditions. Such was the case with Jimena López, one of the founding members of the first LAN Ecuador trade union, who was dismissed in 2014 and is still engaged in legal action for unfair and anti-union dismissal.

Since López was dismissed, her trade union has been striving to defend its right to organise and to bargain collectively with LAN, initiating legal proceedings and organising international support for all the trade union organisations within the LATAM network. López had already denounced the violations of trade union and constitutional rights to the special ILO mission in 2015. The ILO responded by backing her actions and offering support.

Defence Ministry workers demand payment of union dues04-06-2016

In May 2016, employees affiliated to the Sindicato del Ministerio de Defensa presented a call for strike action in response to the government’s refusal to comply with the terms of the Labour Code regarding the deduction of trade union dues from all employees’ salaries.

This refusal has prevented trade union action to defend the rights of around 3,000 employees protected under the Labour Code. The Defence Ministry has totally disregarded the right to collective bargaining, as although it was eliminated in 2016 a transitional regime was offered covering public servants. The Ministry filed the applications submitted, arguing that collective bargaining had been eliminated in the public sector.

The application in question had been presented to the former ministers, María Fernanda Espinosa and Fernando Cordero, as well as the current minister, Ricardo Patiño. The response has invariably been negative. In addition, the Labour Ministry failed to respect the timeframes established for the various stages in the collective bargaining proposals procedure and did not attend the compulsory arbitration meetings organised to reach an agreement. The strike was called on these grounds.

Persecution of social and labour activists23-04-2014

Dr Carlos Figueroa, General Secretary of the Ecuadorian Medical Federation (a PSI affiliate), the Pachakutik Movement parliamentarian, Cléver Jiménez Cabrera and his advisor, Fernando Villavicencio Valencia, ex-leader of the oil workers’ trade union, were accused of libeling Ecuador’s President. The three had asked the public prosecutor to investigate the propriety of the President’s order for military intervention to ‘rescue’ him from the National Police Hospital in Quito during a political crisis in September 2010. The violent military action resulted in a number of deaths.

PSI affiliates in Ecuador have protested repeatedly against the Public Service Law, finally adopted on 6 October 2010, which drastically restricts freedom of association and collective bargaining for public service workers.

Figuerora has been sentenced to six months in prison and both Jiménez and Villavicencio to 18 months in prison. The offices and homes of both Jiménez and Villavicencio were raided on 26 December 2013. They were accused of hacking the president’s electronic mail, whereas in fact they have been investigating cases of government corruption. After an unsuccessful appeal, all three could be imprisoned any day now.

Unfair dismissals at Dole13-12-2013

In December 2013, Dole unfairly dismissed around 25 workers at its María José 1 and 2 and Banaloli 1 and 2 plantations in the province of Los Ríos. They were all members of the Comité de Empresa de Trabajadores de la Compañía Megabananas, a trade union affiliated to the Federación Nacional de Trabajadores Agroindustriales, Campesinos e Indígenas Libres del Ecuador (FENACLE).

Anti-union discrimination31-01-2013

Public services at the Social Security Institute (IESS) and in several public hospitals were privatised, resulting in lower wages and worse working conditions for workers. At the Baca Ortiz Hospital in Quito, more than 200 unionised workers were sacked when services were outsourced to private companies.

Union members in banana plantations in Guayas and Los Rios provinces were subjected to anti-union discrimination by employers. In September 2012, 159 workers were abruptly dismissed simply for forming a union.

Around 80 Aerolane/LAN Ecuador workers were sacked in January 2012; 49 of them were union members, two were on the board of the recently established Sindicato de Trabajadores de Aerolane (SITA).

Child labour in Ecuador31-12-2011

Although child labour is prohibited by law, it is a problem that extends across the country, including in its worst forms. The government is making a serious effort to eradicate it. The figures for 2011 nonetheless reveal that an estimated 367,000 minors aged between five and 14 years are working illegally.

Casualisation used to stop organising and collective bargaining31-12-2011

Both public and private employers deployed tactics such as labour subcontracting and the promotion of management-controlled “solidarista” associations to limit the exercise of the right to organise and collective bargaining. In addition, temporary employees are not covered by the Labour Code and do not therefore have the same level of protection or trade union rights as other workers.

Sluggish legal proceedings31-12-2011

All labour disputes are referred to conciliation and arbitration tribunals. The proceedings in courts of first instance are long and protracted, given the elaboration and /or clarification requirements. The disputes are then referred to courts of second instance, which are mired in red tape and take over four years to deliver a ruling.

Tactics to stop organising and collective bargaining31-12-2011

Employers used a whole range of tactics to stop workers from attempting to organise and bargain collectively, such as not declaring their employees to the social security administration. Undeclared workers are not officially recognised as permanent employees and do not therefore have the right to organise.

Government deploys anti-union practices in public sector31-12-2011

The government maintained a hostile approach to trade union rights, organisations and their leaders in the public sector, showing contempt for their demands, rejecting all calls for social dialogue and negotiations to set working conditions, and making mass dismissals.

Child labour, forced labour01-02-2010

The Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, its causes and consequences, Ms Gulnara Shahinian, visited Ecuador from 25 January to 1 February. The Special Rapporteur highlighted the existence of child labour, practices akin to slavery, forced labour and servitude in Ecuador, especially on the banana and flower plantations, in the palm oil and gold mining sectors and the informal economy. Such practices largely involve people of African descent, indigenous peoples, children from poor families, women, asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented or illegally trafficked migrants. The Rapporteur welcomed the government’s genuine commitment and efforts to implement policies to tackle these serious problems.

Employers block unionisation30-11-2009

Employers continue to support the creation and operations of solidarista associations. The establishment of these workers’ associations is subject to the contribution of the employer they depend on, and are used in practice as a way of preventing the formation of trade unions or to weaken collective bargaining.

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