Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
In Argentina, there are currently trade unions and employers’ associations that represent all types of activities. Employees have the right to organise themselves into unions. Affiliation to unions by employees is not mandatory. The employee is free to decide whether to affiliate or not to the union. The Government grants official recognition only to the most representative union and this is the only union that can represent the employees in collective bargaining agreements.
Management can organise their own union, separate from the union of non-management employees.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
Argentina has ratified ILO Convention # 87, which establishes that workers and employers, without any distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and join organisations of their own choosing. It also provides that workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom and to organise their administration and activities. It also sets forth that workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to establish and join federations, confederations and any such organisation.
Section 14 bis of the Argentine Constitution, provides that the Government must guarantee free and democratic unions and that unions have the right to execute collective bargaining agreements, file conciliation procedures and call a strike.
Law No. 23,551 provides freedom of association rights to unions, the right to organise, meet, file petitions to the authorities, freedom of affiliation for workers, requirements for union delegates, minimum union delegates per company and protection of union delegates. It also provides that the union that has been granted official recognition by the government, is the only one that can represent the employees and engage in collective bargaining agreements.
Union delegates are protected by law. They cannot be demoted, sanctioned or suspended and the terms and conditions of employment may not be changed to their detriment, nor can they be dismissed without justified cause, while they serve as union delegates, and this, until one year after their term expires. In order for an employer to apply a disciplinary sanction, suspend or dismiss with justified cause a union delegate during the protection term, the employer must seek the prior authorisation of a labour court. The same protection is granted to employees who run as candidates for union delegates, but are not elected, and this, until 6 months after the election.
The main tasks of the union delegate are: (i) to represent and make petitions representing individual workers; (ii) to verify compliance of labour laws and collective bargaining agreements in respect to workers; (iii) to participate in any inspection carried out by the labour authorities; (iv) to organise and conduct meetings; and (v) to educate and instruct individual workers.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
Labour laws also allow the existence of other unions that are not officially recognised as the most representative union (referred to as “simply registered unions” before the Ministry of Labour). As such, simple registered unions cannot represent employees in collective bargaining agreements, but they can represent employees in other collective claims and file petitions to the labour authorities alleging employer´s breaches of labour laws. The Supreme Court and labour courts have ruled that the union delegates of simply registered unions are also protected against demotion, sanctions, suspensions, modification of the terms and conditions of employment to their detriment, and dismissal without justified cause.