Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
The possibility for employers and employees to associate through trade unions and employers’ associations is guaranteed as a constitutional right. While this allows for the existence of employees’ and employers’ organisations, employers’ organisations are not very common, nor are they generally used for collective bargaining, but rather for economical and coordination purposes within an industry. Collective bargaining is reserved for employers (individually considered) and trade unions.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
While it is not mandatory to be a member or constitute a trade union in Colombia, trade unions may negotiate, on behalf of their affiliates, to begin a collective bargaining. This process can only be initiated by the trade union; employers cannot call for a collective bargaining process. The result of this negotiation between trade union and an employer is a collective bargaining agreement. Labour procedural rules allow trade unions to present claims on behalf of their members whenever they consider the existence of a breach of the collective bargaining agreement.
The right to strike is recognised as a constitutional right and its exercise must be made in accordance with democratic principles. Limitations on the right to strike apply to essential public services, as defined by law (i.e. public utilities sector).
Trade unions are the traditional vehicle for employees to be part of the employer’s decision-making practice, which is achieved through a collective bargaining process. Therefore, even when the tasks and obligations of the Executive Board are not indicated in the regulation, they should be established in the Union Bylaws with the aim of realising that purpose: acting on behalf of the interest of unionised workers before the employer.
With respect to the Complaints Committee, the main purpose is filing complaints with the employer on behalf of the unions and the employees, either as joint or single petitions. Employees do not have any restriction on being part of the Board of Directors of the company. In any case, the employer and their representatives will preserve the managerial power over the employees.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
The 1295 Decree of 1994 established the obligation for every employer to constitute a health and safety committee, wherein the number of members varies according to the number of employees of the Company. Its composition is by an equal number of employer’s representatives and employees’ representatives.
The 1010 Act of 2006 established a mandatory harassment committee to address possible conducts considered as such, and to develop activities to improve the working environment for all employees. The number of members of this body varies according to the number of employees of the company. Its composition is by an equal number of employer’s representatives and employees’ representatives.