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The ITUC affiliates in Nicaragua are the Central de Trabajadores de Nicaragua (CTN), the Central Sandinista de Trabajadores (CST), the Confederación de Unificación Sindical (CUS) and the Frente Nacional de los Trabajadores (FNT).

Nicaragua 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 1967.

In practice

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Anti-union practices at Hotel Crowne Plaza Managua09-10-2017

Between January and October 2017, Hotel Crowne Plaza Managua unfairly dismissed at least 27 workers and 12 others were forced to resign owing to the psychological pressure and excessive workload imposed on them. Seventy per cent of the workers dismissed were members of the Sindicato Gutiérrez y Martínez, affiliated to the national food workers’ federation Federación Unitaria de Trabajadores de la Alimentación de Nicaragua (FUTATSCON) and the IUF. The trade union has kept up its condemnation of the poor working conditions, the constant violations of the collective agreement and the anti-union practices at the hotel.

Labour Ministry refusing to recognise trade unions08-01-2017

The Labour Ministry (Mitrab) has been refusing to issue trade union organisations with registration certificates in recent years. It persisted with this refusal during 2017. The unions at Intae-Granada, which is a branch of the Instituto Nacional Tecnológico (Inatec) in Managua, as well as two private sector unions representing workers at Avícola Nacional, in Granada, and Molinos de Nicaragua have been applying for an extension of their union registration certificate for over two years, backed by court rulings in their favour.
Similarly, in 2017, the Labour Ministry refused to comply with the judicial decision ordering the certification of the Augusto C. Sandino trade union at Empresa Nicaragüense de Acueductos y Alcantarillado (Enacal) in Granada. In January 2017, Enacal unfairly dismissed two members of the trade union.

Criminalisation of protest through the justice system at SAE-A Tecnotex31-12-2016

In December 2016, 12 workers from the SAE-A Tecnotex factory were declared guilty of a series of offences, including obstruction of police duties and serious damages against the national police and the company, following a labour dispute at a factory owned by a South Korean firm. The plant employs 3,000 workers and produces clothing for export to companies in the United States, such as Kohls, Target, JC Penney and Walmart, and is located in an export processing zone (EPZ) in Managua.

The 12 workers (two trade union representatives and ten union members) were arrested in June 2016 by riot police during a peaceful protest in front of the EPZ factory in Tipitapa, Managua. The workers were demanding respect for their labour rights, such as access to drinking water, decent working conditions and realistic production targets. The trade union representatives were condemned to two years in prison and the others to one year. They have all been stripped of their political rights and barred from leaving the country.

Labour Ministry fails to register unions, in breach of the law31-12-2016

During 2016, the Labour Ministry violated the right to organise and collective bargaining by ignoring legal rulings issued by the country’s courts ordering the registration of trade union organisations. Workers’ organisations cannot take part in collective bargaining if they are not registered, limiting the role they play as trade unions. Registration is also required to establish protection for trade union representatives against unfair dismissal.

The leaders of trade union centres Unidad Sindical Magisterial (USM), the Confederación Nacional de Maestros de Nicaragua (CNMN) and the Central de Trabajadores de Nicaragua (CTN Autónoma), which represent around 60 trade unions nationwide, tried to meet with the Labour Minister on several occasions, to no avail. The aim of the meeting was to find out why, during 2016, trade unions were not being issued updated registration certificates, despite the time limit for the processing of such formalities being set by law at a maximum of ten days.

The trade unions that have been waiting for the ministry to issue them with registration certificates throughout 2016 are: the Asociación de Maestros Independientes de Nicaragua, the union at Intae-Granada, which is a branch of the Instituto Nacional Tecnológico (Inatec) in Managua, as well as two private sector unions representing workers at Avícola Nacional in Granada and Molinos de Nicaragua. The Federación Sindical de Managua and the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Teustepe, Boaco, also have court rulings in their favour, which the ministry has ignored. In addition, the trade union representing workers at the Empresa Nicaragüense de Acueductos y Alcantarillado (ENACAL), in Granada, has been awaiting the implementation of a legal decision ordering its recognition for ten months.

In December 2016, five workers where dismissed, in violation of the collective agreement, at the Matadero Central abattoir in Juigalpa, Chontales, due to the ministry’s failure to issue the registration certificate.

Attacks on freedom of association at New Holland Nica factory30-11-2016

In November 2016, the Fair Labor Association presented the final report of an investigation into the violations of freedom of association at New Holland Nica (New Holland Apparel S.A.), located in the Zona Franca Astro export processing zone in Managua, Nicaragua. The investigation was commissioned by AdidasGroup and Under Armour, which source from the factory, following complaints lodged by the workers’ union, Sindicato Trabajadores al Poder (STP).

The complaint included reports of repeated trade union rights violations at the factory. Among the violations reported by the trade union was the management’s persecution of the workers who constituted the executive of a newly formed union and the dismissal of the leaders who had attended a meeting regarding the election of the organisation’s new executive.

The investigation found that two workers had been dismissed without complying with the procedures established in the collective agreement and recommended that they be reinstated with back pay. The company accepted. The report also highlighted that the factory’s termination procedure failed to include specific procedures to protect workers against discrimination and possible reprisals for their involvement in trade union activities. In addition, the report underlined that the management system at the factory did not include clear measures to ensure that trade union organisations are treated impartially and that their independence is respected during the formation process and in the development of their activities. It recommended that a training programme on the right to organise and the free exercise of trade union activity be setup and implemented for the management and human resources employees.

AdidasGroup and Under Armour have worked in conjunction with the factory and the trade union organisations to develop a plan to fulfil the recommendations made by Fair Labor Association.

Government takeover of trade unionism in public sector02-05-2016

In May of 2016, it was reported that unionists belonging to the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) were forcing public employees to take part in their organisation under the threat of dismissal or disciplinary action, in violation of the right to organise and freedom of association. According to the report, public employees are obliged to become paid-up members of the FSLN and to take part in the political and “trade union” events of the Ortega regime.

The National Pro Human Rights Association (ANPDH) denounced that during the nine years since Daniel Ortega has been back in power, almost 28,000 public employees have been dismissed, most of them unfairly. According to the report, many were dismissed for refusing to join the government’s party and pro-government unions. It is claimed that the unions are not independent and have to serve the interests of the government, which in effect makes them parallel unions that do not truly represent the workers’ interests. Meanwhile, the government marginalises the small independent unions.

The members of parliament from the Sandinista Renovador Movement (MRS), one of the opposition parties, responded to the situation by introducing a special bill to the National Assembly to ‘preserve the dignity of public servants’, aimed at eradicating the compulsory nature of contributions to and participation in pro-government unions.

Pepsi’s distributor sacks 70 workers for forming a union09-02-2015

On 9 November 2014, workers at the Nicaraguan logistics company which markets and distributes products made by PepsiCo’s flagship Central American bottler Embotelladora Nacional S.A. (ENSA) formed a union in Managua. Within 24 hours the company fired 70 members and leaders.

At the request of the union, the Ministry of Labour inspected the ENSA plant, verified the mass dismissals, confirmed the violation of basic rights and ordered the company to reinstate the illegally dismissed workers.

In a meeting with Marcial Cabrera, General Secretary of the United Federation of Power Workers, who is advising the Union of Schneider Workers, the company proposed to reinstate only 45 of the dismissed workers, leaving out the 25 activists who organised the union. Schneider National then appealed the Ministry’s reinstatement order, which was upheld. Workers continue picketing at the main entrance of the ENSA-Pepsi plant in Managua in defence of their rights.

Although Schneider National Logistics delivers PepsiCo products in Nicaragua and their workers wear uniforms which display the Pepsi logo, it denies a direct relationship with Pepsi.

Upoli unwilling to negotiate31-03-2013

Teachers and administrative personnel from the Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua, Upoli, staged a protest in March 2013 calling for a 10% salary increase. According to the Secretary General of the trade union, the employers and authorities at Upoli were unwilling to negotiate.

Persecution of public sector workers continues 31-12-2012

According to the Federación Democrática de Trabajadores del Sector Público (Fedetrasep), 24.330 public sector employees were dismissed between January 2007 and December 2012. They also highlighted that 156 trade union organisations “had been eliminated” in different state bodies during the same period.

Outsourcing undermining trade union rights31-12-2011

Outsourcing has had an enormous impact, and led representatives of several trade union organisations as well as members of the National Assembly to put forward a bill aimed at regulating the practice, which was debated at the “Tri-partite Forum on Outsourcing”. Workers lose their rights to social security, collective bargaining, to organise, to a decent pension, because of outsourcing. At least 800.000 workers are employed as contract labour in Nicaragua, principally in agriculture, construction, hotels and restaurants.

According to Marcial Cabrera, General Secretary of the United Federation of Food, Agro-Industry, Tourism, Service, Commercial and Allied Workers of Nicaragua (FUTATSCON), outsourcing continues to be a common method of hiring staff. It undermines workers’ minimum guarantees, which in turn leads to the violation of their fundamental rights. Nicaraguan workers suffer the consequences, reflected above all in low wages, appalling working conditions, a lack of social benefits and the denial of their trade union rights.

Forced labour practices31-12-2011

In many workplaces, employers take advantage of the employment deficit in the country to demand that employees work longer than eight hours a day, in order to cover production quotas and meet international commitments.

Domestic workers work more than eight hours a day without being paid the legal minimum wage, or overtime or for working on public holidays, in exchange for their job security and accommodation.
Health workers face a similar situation, as public hospitals demand that they work more than an eight hour day without paying them for the overtime.

Call centre employees also work more than eight hours a day without being paid for overtime or working on public holidays, in exchange for their job security.

Restrictions on collective bargaining rights31-12-2011

The Ministry of Education (MINED) has refused to allow the National Teachers’ Confederation of Nicaragua (CNMN) to take part in the collective bargaining process to guarantee better social benefits and ensure the respect of the social rights contained in collective agreements.

Workers’ rights violated in public sector31-12-2010

Unionised workers in the public sector witnessed a multitude of abusive practices by the authorities such as reprisals, discrimination, unfair dismissals, illegal suspensions, illegal contracts with mega salaries, the creation of new illegal posts, illegal promotions, arbitrary transfers and disregard for administrative and judicial decisions.

Companies oppose union organising30-11-2009

It is part of corporate culture to persistently oppose the free exercise of trade union rights, with the backing of professional advice from lawyers and managers. Unionised workers speak of constant attacks, harassment and other forms of pressure aimed at forcing them to leave the union or the company. Dismissals, including of trade unions’ leaders or founding members, are the main strategy used to stop or prevent any attempts to organise. Employers often offer workers financial incentives to leave the union, to weaken the organisation by stripping it of its members. Employment relationships are changing and the increasing use of short-term or one-day contracts is making it impossible to increase union membership. Tactics such as changing company name, although this may seem like a formality, are also used as a way of de-legitimising the union or replacing members of the management with anti-union “hardliners”. The export processing zones or maquilas continue to be the sector where the most workers’ rights violations are committed.

Anti-union discrimination28-02-2009

In a communiqué dated 24 February, the national trade union confederation, Confederación de Unificación Sindical (CUS), reported that the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry had still not responded to the requests for a meeting with the trade unions representing the workers employed by this Ministry, despite repeated requests dating back to January 2007. The CUS added that the government has not yet fulfilled the recommendations formulated by the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in 2008 and continues to violate the clauses of the collective agreement in a number of areas, including contracting, dismissal procedures, facilities for trade unions (offices, etc.), and the bilateral agreement with drivers, especially as regards pay reviews.

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