Peru: Mobilization against job insecurity amidst the pandemic
By: Luis Villanueva Carbajal (Secretary General of the Federation of Civil Construction Workers of Peru and member of the UITBB Secretariat)
More than 15,000 workers affiliated with the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP) mobilized towards the Congress of the Republic on November 5 to demand the end of the government’s labor insecurity policy implemented during the pandemic. Construction workers mobilized in demand of the economic reactivation of the construction sector that today barely employs 86,000 construction workers out of more than 450,000 existing throughout the country. In other words, more than 80% of civil construction workers are unemployed in Peru.
We must also point out that there is an informal labor market in the country which is around 75%, so many workers do not receive all the salary benefits and other labor rights in the public or private worksites where they work.
Given this informality and high unemployment in the sector, we have demanded the granting of a bonus of 1000 soles for civil construction workers, using the database of the National Registry of Civil Construction Workers (RETCC) managed by the Ministry of Labor and Promotion of Employment (MTPE), within the framework of the CGTP’s demand for a bonus for all Peruvians of legal age so that they can face unemployment, job insecurity, hunger and misery that prevails in the country.
Another of our demands is dignified retirement. During the Fujimori dictatorship, in the 1990s, the right of construction workers to retirement at 55 years of age and 15 years of contributions to the public pension system was violated, a right obtained by the high contingency of work and the great physical wear and tear that causes premature aging. The Fujimori dictatorship raised this criterion to 20 years of contributions, therefore, with a temporary job and in a mostly informal labor market, only 9% of construction workers reach retirement. And in the private system, pensions are ridiculous. Given this, we have demanded that the current debate on a pension reform in the Congress of the Republic establishes the criteria so that, on the way to the bicentennial of Independence, all Peruvians obtain a dignified retirement in 2021.
Just as we fight against an informal labor market, an unjust pension system and unemployment in this work, we must fight against the criminal mafias that have entrenched themselves in the construction sector and that use extortion and murder to control the works, often using front pseudo-union organizations. To date, 19 FTCCP union leaders have been assassinated by these criminal organisations since 2011. The frontal fight against organized crime is another of our demands.
This mobilization outside the Congress of the Republic demanded the revision and repeal of the decrees published by the Government that violate decent work in other economic sectors, which suffer the perfect suspension of work, collective dismissals without opportunity for replacement in the workplace. Likewise, the state sector abuses administrative service contracts (CAS) without giving workers stability, even in those sectors where there have been a large number of deaths due to being in the first line of care against Covid-19, such as the health workers.
The mobilization and sit-in lasted approximately two and a half hours, and it was repressed by the government, with the construction workers resisting until the last moment the onslaught of the police.
The Peruvian construction workers reaffirm ourselves in the fight for labor rights and a more just nation, where workers and the people do not suffer within the system.