4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliates in Paraguay are the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores Auténtica (CUT-A) and the Central Sindical de Trabajadores del Paraguay (CESITP).

Paraguay ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1962 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1966.

In practice

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Deadlock in negotiations between trade unions and state employers 11-02-2020

Representatives of the Finance Ministry and public service unions met on 10 February 2020 to continue discussions regarding the limits on the controversial fringe benefits received by state employees. At the close of the meeting held at the Undersecretariat of State for Taxation (SET), the unions’ spokesperson, José Pineda, said the negotiations were blocked and denounced that some authorities were even refusing to talk to the union representatives. He criticised the positions taken by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MIC), the state-owned company Petróleos de Paraguay (Petropar) and the National Customs Directorate, and underlined that they had, during the previous meeting, agreed to a maximum period of 15 days to reach a consensus on the payment of benefits, and yet no progress was being made in the dialogue.

Strike by judicial officers declared illegal 20-12-2019

On 20 December 2019, labour judge Greta Aquino declared illegal the 14-day strike that had been staged by judicial officers some weeks earlier to press for a pay rise in the following year’s budget. The ruling exposed the strikers to disciplinary action and possible dismissals.
According to the judge, the three organisations that had called the strike – Sindicato de Funcionarios de la Dirección General de los Registros Públicos (Sifurep), Coordinadora de Trabajadores del Registro de Automotores and Sindicato de Funcionarios Judiciales del Paraguay – had not fully complied with the requirements set out in the Labour Code.

Strikers’ pay to be docked11-12-2019

The judicial officers’ union, Sindicato de Funcionarios Judiciales, said it was closely following the decision, ratified by the Supreme Court of Justice, not to pay the salaries of the public servants who took part in the latest judicial strike. If implemented, the measure would affect approximately 5,000 employees. Despite her concerns, the union’s general secretary, Porfiria Ocholasky, said the union had not filed a request to reconsider the decision and to pay the strikers for the days not worked.

Fifteen trade unionists fired at UniNorte university 12-07-2019

Fifteen employees at the Universidad del Norte (UniNorte) were reportedly fired for having taken part in setting up a union named Sindicato de Trabajadores Artísticos, Servicios y Administrativos (SITRASA) at the university. The union was formed in August 2018 and obtained provisional recognition the following month from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MTESS).

Judge issues court order to repress and arrest striking truck drivers 31-01-2018

In January 2018, Judge Lici Sánchez sanctioned the appeal filed by the Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC) and the National Department of Transport (Dinatran) to ensure freedom of movement across the country. Truck drivers acting in breach of the court decision were liable to arrest and imprisonment. The judge ordered, as an emergency precautionary measure, the removal from national roads of all obstacles, of any kind, that might hinder or obstruct the free movement of citizens, empowering the National Police to intervene to implement the order, in compliance with the constitutional mandate set out in Article 175 of the National Constitution.

Collective agreement obstructed at Banco Central 31-01-2018

In January 2018, members of SINTRA-BCP, representing staff at the Central Bank of Paraguay (BCP) and SINGRU-BCP, representing university graduates, denounced the head of the BCP for failing to sign the collective agreement, as promised in September 2017 within the framework of a bargaining committee. Employees of the Central Bank had suspended imminent strike action following the commitment made to sign the agreement by the end of 2017. According to the unions, the president of the BCP is also in breach of Law 489, Article 12 of which prohibits participation in political activities.

Anti-union dismissals at security firm 05-01-2018

In December 2017, security firm SIT dismissed five workers, executive members of the private security workers’ union Sindicato Gremial de Servicios de Seguridad Privada del Paraguay, just days after the union was formed.

Violation of the right to strike at Catholic University 30-12-2017

On 13 October 2017, employees at the Universidad Católica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (UCA) launched strike action in protest at the breach of the collective agreement. Juan Abdala, deputy general secretary of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la UCA, described as shameful the precautionary measure adopted by the university authorities to stop the employees from coming within 100 metres of the premises.

The strike was called to denounce various breaches of the collective agreement, such as the failure to provide breastfeeding rooms for the female employees at the university. In December, the university’s board of governors dismissed four trade unionists who had taken part in the strike.

Anti-union dismissals at various media outlets 31-08-2017

The International Federation of Journalists reported that 18 workers had been dismissed from various media outlets in Paraguay during July and August 2017 as part of an intimidation campaign in response to calls for better working conditions or dissent from the editorial line of the media outlet employing them. Workers from various media denounced the persecution of those exercising the right to organise. Carmen Ruiz, for example, was dismissed from Unicanal after having stood as a representative at the union elections held by the Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP). Seven other journalists were dismissed from Global News after giving official notification that a trade union had been formed at the agency.

Anti-union discrimination at Última Hora newspaper 05-06-2017

On 5 June 2017, members of the journalists’ union, Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), denounced the owner of the daily newspaper Última Hora for discriminating against and harassing unionised journalists. In a note sent to the Labour Ministry, the SPP called for a tripartite meeting to put an end to the anti-union discrimination and harassment suffered by journalists. The note explained that the journalists started to face discrimination for being union members, covered by a collective agreement, as of the moment they were incorporated within the A. J. Vierci Group in 2016.

Social Security Institute (IPS) employees strike over non-compliance with collective agreement 15-12-2016

In December 2016, public health sector employees affiliated to TRASIPS (Trabajadores Sindicalizados del Instituto de Previsión Social) launched a strike in protest at the repeated failure to comply with the collective agreement on working conditions as well as the increasingly precarious health services and the lack of medical supplies, medication and diagnostic tests. The trade union organisation called on the Institute to provide decent working conditions and sufficient budgetary funds to meet the needs of the population, but no solution has been found to date.

Provisional registration of La Limpeña trade union revoked21-07-2016

In May 2016, the Labour, Employment and Social Security Ministry revoked the provisional registration granted in November 2015 to the trade union representing La Limpeña bus company employees (Sindicato de Choferes y Empleados de la Empresa de Transporte La Limpeña SRL Línea 49), after 51 of its members were dismissed in June 2015 for forming the union. The workers had staged a hunger strike following the dismissals, to demand respect for their rights.

The drivers had been employed under appalling conditions for more than 10 years, working over 16-hour days without adequate pay or benefits. The Ministry refused to register the union based on current membership being lower than that required to form a union, which amounts to yet another breach of freedom of association given that membership had fallen below the required level as a result of the anti-union dismissals. The trade unionists initiated legal proceedings to contest the decision and the matter is currently in the hands of the Labour Appeal Court.

Trade union persecution at National Civil Aviation Authority01-05-2016

From mid 2015 to early 2016, the nine trade unions within the national civil aviation authority, DINAC, were the targets of an intense stigmatisation and persecution campaign together with other violations of the right to freedom of association. The DINAC had launched a process to privatise the administration of the Silvio Pettirossi airport in the city of Luque, Central Department.

By May 2016, all the executive members of the trade unions had been dismissed as part of the management’s all-out campaign to crush the unions, to force them to dissolve and to hand over the administration of a union-free airport.

Unjustified delays in registration of new union organisations04-04-2016

Hundreds of unions experienced delays in their registration, which holds serious implications for their founders, such as dismissal, non-renewal of contracts, persecution and harassment. In 2016, many trade unions were still waiting to be registered with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, including:

• Organización de Trabajadores de Educadores del Paraguay Auténtico (OTEP-Auténtica)
• Sindicato de Profesionales y Técnicos de la Dirección Nacional de Aeronáutica Civil (SIPROTEC)
• Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Administración Nacional de Electricidad (SITRANDE)
• Federación de Trabajadores Bancarios y Afines del Paraguay (FETRABAN)
• Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Construcción Civil e Hidroeléctrica del Alto Paraná (STICCAP)
• Sindicato de Funcionarios Graduados Universitarios de la Contraloría General de la República (SINGRUCOG)
• Sindicato de Arte y Cultura del Paraguay
• Sindicato de Funcionarios de Seguridad de la Entidad Binacional YASYRETA (SIFUSEBY)
• Sindicato de Funcionarios y Empleados del Fondo Ganadero (SINTRAFOG)
• Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa (SITRAPREN)
• Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Azucarera Iturbe (SITRAAISA)
• Sindicato Auténtico de Trabajadores Municipales (SINATRAM)
• Sindicato Auténtico de Seguridad y Vigilancia de la Administración Nacional de Navegación y Puertos (SINASEVIG-ANNP)

Dismissals at Vetorial S.A. following trade union complaint22-03-2016

In March 2016, steel company Aceros del Paraguay (ACEPAR), currently operated by Vetorial S.A., unfairly dismissed 57 workers after the management was informed of the complaint filed by the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Acepar (SITRASA), and the majority of the workers, regarding the appalling health and safety conditions at the steelworks. The workers initiated the relevant legal proceedings based on the existence of an agreement, established by the Labour Ministry, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Brazilian company holding the concession, whereby workers would not be dismissed for the duration of the concession.

Anti-union persecution of CESITP leaders and arbitrary justice10-01-2016

Since 1997, the president and the general secretary of the CESITP, Reinaldo Barreto Medina and Florencio Florentin, have been the victims of unrelenting anti-union persecution in the form of arbitrary justice. The trade union leaders were sentenced to imprisonment in 2007. In 2016, despite having served their sentences and the case being expunged by order of the court, they continue to be on probation. Nineteen years following their detention, the trade union leaders are still being subjected to arbitrary justice, forced to do community work, to continually sign the book at the court, and are forbidden from changing their domicile or leaving the country. The case was referred to the ILO (2086 and 12821).

Independent trade union leaders continue to face persecution:
In 2015, the government removed Oscar Rivas, organising secretary of the CESITP, from his post, despite a court order to the contrary.
Valentín Bogarín, a trade union leader from Villeta, was arrested and charged during the general strike on 21 and 22 December 2015.
Hugo Caballero, president of public servants’ trade union at the Chamber of Senators and deputy general secretary of the CESITP, was indicted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, along with 19 other trade union leaders.

Collection of trade union dues31-12-2015

According to the CESITP, the strategy most commonly used by the Paraguayan government to interfere with and hamper trade union freedoms is to stop the collection of union dues, to weaken organisations and hinder their capacity to act.

In December 2015, the deduction of union dues for SITRAMIS was stopped, creating countless problems in terms of credit and other payments.

Government does not consult with independent trade unions and confederations31-12-2015

According to the independent trade union centre CESITP, the government of Paraguay does not consult with free trade union centres regarding any labour or trade union issues. Their exclusion lasted throughout 2015, and the CESITP was not included in the delegation for the 2015 ILO Conference.

Prohibition and intimidation to stop strike action21-12-2015

The government, represented by the Ministries of the Interior and Labour, at a joint press conference with the employers, threatened those calling the strike of 21 December 2015, declaring it illegal and threatening to use force to stop it and to apply the law against disturbing the peace. In addition to this intimidation, unions were infiltrated and the police and army were deployed in huge numbers to supress the general strike called by the Plenary of Trade Union Centres, comprising the CESITP, the CUT, CCT, CONAT, CNT-Disidente and the FENAES.

Collective bargaining blocked10-12-2015

In Paraguay, collective bargaining with independent trade unions has been blocked since the government led by Horacio Cartes came to power, according to the CESITP. The few negotiations held are with trade unions close to the employers or the government.
Although the labour legislation in Paraguay provides for collective bargaining, in practice, the national government creates yellow unions or infiltrates organisations and bribes them with positions or concessions to thwart free negotiations and to reign in the little that is negotiated with the unions.

Virtually no collective agreements were negotiated in 2015. The President of the Republic himself, Horacio Cartes, refuses to have unions in his company and repeatedly says in his speeches that “trade unions are a major obstacle to the country’s development”.
The ban on negotiations in the public sector remains in place. The Public Service Ministry refuses, as an institutional policy, to recognise collective agreements.
President Horacio Cartes demonstrated his anti-union attitude throughout 2015, and demanded that the collective agreements at the national electricity company ANDE be abolished.

Police violently suppress trade union protest27-08-2015

On 27 August 2015, a protest by unionised workers in Asuncion ended with 30 people being injured, when anti-riot police used batons and rubber bullets to violently disperse demonstrators supporting the “La Limpeña” bus drivers’ protest being held in front of the Labour Ministry to demand the resignation of Minister Guillermo Sosa.

Anti-union measures at DINAC20-08-2015

In June 2015 a strike organised by the National Civil Aviation Authority’s (Dirección Nacional de Aeronáutica Civil - DINAC) Trade Union Organisation led to retaliatory measures by the Paraguayan government and the airport authorities.

The president of DINAC, Luis Aguirre, dismissed three of the trade union leaders, who have protected status because of their trade union role, and ordered the transfer of over 20 civil servants for taking part in the strike.

Furthermore, one of the trade union leaders, Justo Alfonso, was charged with “obstructing air traffic” and another ten workers were charged with “disturbing public peace”.

Finally, a labour judge declared the strike illegal, violating due process and authorising the presentation of proof beyond what was initially required. The ruling was riddled with irregularities, which led the workers’ defence team to request that it be declared null and void.

Drivers unfairly dismissed and extreme measures19-08-2015

On 19 August 2015, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) sent a letter to President Cartes condemning the illegal actions of “La Limpeña” bus company, owned by Member of Parliament Celso Maldonado.
On 22 June 2015, the drivers formed a trade union to defend their rights in light of the exploitation and informal work at the company. The day after informing the company that a union had been formed, the management unfairly dismissed 51 drivers, members of the recently established trade union, and requested that the Labour and Social Security Ministry revoke its registration. The Ministry accepted the request not to recognise the union, authorising the employer to dismiss the trade unionists.
A few days later, several of the dismissed drivers crucified themselves in front of the Labour Ministry. Some sewed their lips together and began a hunger strike to demand that their labour demands be addressed. Despite these extreme measures, they were not received by the authorities.

Anti-union persecution at Citibank09-07-2015

In July 2015, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) denounced the abuses perpetrated by Citibank against Oscar Ricardo Paredes Dürrling, an ex-employee of Citibank N.A. in Paraguay and former Executive Committee member of the Citibank employees’ union Sindicato de Empleados del Citibank Paraguay.

According to the TUCA, Citibank did everything in its power, over a number of years, to force Paredes Dürrling to resign, deploying a range of illegal and unconstitutional strategies. As a result, the trade unionist is now receiving no pay and no retirement pension, after 34 years of service, and is currently fighting a legal battle to assert his rights through the labour courts.

Other violations05-04-2015

In January 2014, the sugar company Iturbe was denounced for its constant violations of workers’ rights, such as the non-payment of wages, the persecution of unionised workers and discrimination against security guards, who were forced to perform tasks beyond their remit. The Labour Ministry did nothing to address the situation, allowing the workers’ rights to be violated for years. In March 2015, the national government decided to settle the millions in debt owed to the workers.

Between 2014 and March 2015, no improvement was seen in the appalling situation of indigenous workers employed in slave or semi-slave like conditions (debt servitude) and as forced labour. The General Labour Directorate and its labour inspection agency are allowing this intolerable situation to persist, claiming they neither have the funds nor the staff needed to tackle it.

On 26 March 2014, civil society and trade union organisations, the Federación Nacional Campesina (FNC), Coordinadora Democrática and Plenaria de Centrales Sindicales, held a general strike to protest against policies aimed at privatising education and health, which will generate mass layoffs and serious labour rights violations, as well as structural changes to the agricultural export model, affecting the poorest farmers. The government continued with its policy of holding talks but not negotiating the demands presented by the organisations. Finally, the government docked the wages of unionised workers who took part in the strike.

Anti-union discrimination at Banco Regional18-03-2015

On 5 March 2015, the Banco Regional issued a termination notice unfairly dismissing Sonia Espínola Báez, leader of the Federación de Trabajadores Bancarios y Afines del Paraguay (FETRABAN), just as she was taking on the position of trade representative at the bank.

The bank had been duly notified of the employee’s trade union post and the role she would carry out. Far from being an isolated incident, this unfair dismissal is part of a policy of anti-union persecution and intimidation against employees at the Banco Regional, manifested, in concrete terms, by the blatant violation of labour rights and the harassment and dismissal of unionised workers.

Repression of striking dockworkers10-03-2015

The strike action staged by the Liga de Obreros Marítimos del Paraguay (LOMP) in Asuncion on 12 November 2014, during which dockworkers blocked the Paraguay River at the level of Caacupemí port in Zeballos Cué, was harshly suppressed by the Naval Prefecture.

As dockworkers protested by gathering in small boats and blocking the departure of a ship, the Prefecture’s patrol boats and helicopters intimidated the demonstrators, creating large waves to destabilise their boats, causing the vessels to crash against the moored ship.

The Prefecture detained 12 of the workers and handed them over to the Office of the Public Prosecutor, where they were charged with offences carrying prison terms of up to six years, based on Article 214 of the Penal Code, on grounds that the trade union action allegedly endangered the aquatic environment.

The LOMP had been trying to establish tripartite negotiations for a year, to discuss the reactivation of the port of Asuncion, in light of the government’s unilateral decision to close it, the reinstatement of the dockworkers dismissed at the port of San Francisco, and the negotiation of a collective agreement, which is being blocked by the authorities and maritime companies of Paraguay.

Various dates were set for the launch of a social dialogue to settle the dispute, but the unions were the only party to turn up for the negotiations.

During 2013 and 201428-02-2015

During 2013 and 2014, the Labour Ministry refused to register at least 13 trade union organisations and federations in Paraguay. In March 2015, the situation remained unchanged. The organisations affected are:
Organización de Trabajadores de Educadores del Paraguay Auténtica (OTEP-AUTENTICO)
Sindicato de Profesionales y Técnicos de la Dirección Nacional de Aeronáutica Civil (SIPROTEC)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Administración Nacional de Electricidad (SITRANDE)
Federación de Trabajadores Bancarios y Afines del Paraguay (FETRABAN)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Construcción Civil e Hidroeléctrica del Alto Paraná (STICCAP)
Sindicato de Funcionarios Graduados Universitarios de la Contraloría General de la República (SINGRUCOG)
Sindicato de Arte y Cultura del Paraguay
Sindicato de Funcionarios de Seguridad de la Entidad Binacional YASYRETA (SIFUSEBY)
Sindicato de Funcionarios y Empleados del Fondo Ganadero (SINTRAFOG)
Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa (SITRAPREN)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Azucarera Iturbe (SITRAAISA)
Sindicato Auténtico de Trabajadores Municipales (SINATRAM)
Sindicato Auténtico de Seguridad y Vigilancia de la Administración Nacional de Navegación y Puertos (SINASEVIG-ANNP)

On 8 July 2014, teachers’ trade unions held a day of peaceful protest against the campaign of anti-union persecution being waged by the government of President Horacio Cartes. The trade unionists were protesting against the elimination of trade union leave, which obstructs trade union work, the refusal to improve teachers’ pensions, the violence used to suppress social protest, the pay deductions affecting those who took part in the general strike of 26 March 2014, and to press for the urgent need for greater investment in education.

Workers have to appeal to the courts individually as collective legal action is not allowed. The courts are independent in theory, but appointments are linked to the dominant political parties. Justice is slow, costly and unpredictable.

On 13 August 2014, three days of protest, led by trade unions, campesino organisations, land rights defenders and political parties, were held in opposition to the Public-Private Partnership Act, which foresees the privatisation of health, education and public services, as well as to condemn the violence used by the state and the criminalisation of social protest. The protestors were also calling for agrarian reform, to resolve the serious problem of the concentration of land in the hands of a few. Further protests were held in November 2014 and February 2015.

Acepar violates collective agreement16-10-2014

Between 22 May and 3 August 2014, Hugo Gonzales Chirico, union leader at steel company Acepar, began a hunger strike in protest against a dispute over a collective bargaining agreement that started in 2001.

Between April and November 2010, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Acepar (SITRAC) went on strike in protest at the company’s failure to comply with the collective agreement in force, failure to respect workers’ human rights and its dismissal of 325 workers, which exacerbated the dispute.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of SITRAC in July 2009, recognizing the validity of the collective agreement in force. However, the company’s management did not comply with the agreement.

Repression against education unionists04-09-2014

The International Trade Union Confederation has condemned the brutal repression suffered by trade union leaders from the education sector. On 28 August, education workers were holding a peaceful demonstration calling for better pay and the allocation of 7% of GDP to education under the nation’s general expenditure budget.

Several trade union leaders were injured by police during the demonstration, including Silvio Piris, president of the Federación de Educadores del Paraguay (FEP), Santiago Ortiz, general secretary of the Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP) and Juan Gabriel Espínola, general secretary of the OTEP-Auténtica.

Acts of interference in strike action19-08-2013

The wire company Alambra SA hired staff to replace workers on strike in the city of Capiatá, near the capital Asunción. Labour inspectors have confirmed that substitutes were used by the company but took no further action.

Obstacles to the right to strike in practice19-08-2013

An administrative act by the Ministry of Labour suspended the right to strike by unions in the Ministry of Finance and in the Judiciary. The Ministry of Labour does not have this authority.

Anti-union discrimination and refusal to bargain in good faith19-08-2013

Granja Maehara S.A. dismissed workers for creating a union. Subsequently, the unionists were arrested by police for protesting in front of the company’s facilities.

The meat company Industria Paraguaya Frigorífica S.A. (IPFSA) dismissed union leaders and members and has refused to negotiate a collective agreement.

The security company Prosegur dismissed 325 workers after the creation of a union and refused to bargain with the union.

The company Grupo La Victoria dismissed workers and union leaders after the creation of a union.

The Banco Regional SAECA refused to sign a collective agreement with the union.

Intervention in collective agreements19-08-2013

More than 90 per cent of collective agreements in the public sector are not recognised due to arbitrary interference by the Secretary for the Civil Service (Secretaria de la Función Publica).

Forced labour in Paraguay30-12-2011

According to the ILO, thousands of indigenous workers are known to be working as bonded labour on the very remote, traditional cattle ranches of Bajo Chaco and Central Chaco. The bosses force them to buy basic necessities at exorbitant prices from the stores on the ranches and then pay them a derisory sum of money at the end of the year. The cattle ranches are manned by armed guards, who refuse access to labour inspectors in some cases. The government of Paraguay ordered inspections that confirmed these violations during 2011.

Negotiating difficulties at Esso Standard Paraguay13-09-2011

On 13 September 2011, workers at Esso Standard Paraguay formed a union with a view to signing a collective agreement establishing a pay review, given that wages have not been adjusted since 2007. The group was acquired by Bridas Corp in April 2011 and the new owners have blocked the negotiating process. The matter remains unresolved.

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