1.  Collective Bargaining -- A bill has been submitted to the Uruguayan Congress that would introduce important amendments to the Collective Bargaining Act (“the Bill”)

Collective bargaining is governed in Uruguay by the Collective Bargaining Act (Law Nº 18.566 of 11 September 2009). The Collective Bargaining Act does not only govern salary council negotiations but also bargaining at all labor law levels. The Collective Bargaining Act has been strongly criticized by organizations representing employers because it empowers unions in significant ways and encourages negotiations not only in connection with salaries, but also as to general workplace conditions.

On March 4, 2013, the Executive Branch submitted to Congress a bill introducing amendments to the Collective Bargaining Act. The Bill has been strongly criticized by local unions and an arduous approval process is expected in Congress.

This bill represents the first attempt by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to introduce changes to the Act.  The proposed changes are aimed at adopting some of the recommendations that the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labor Organization extended to the Uruguayan government to improve labor relations in Uruguay.

Follows below a description of the main amendments that would be introduced to collective bargaining in Uruguay if the Bill is approved:

  1. The Collective Bargaining Act expressly sets forth that when the employees of a company are not unionized, the company might have to negotiate with the union of its sector of activity. The Bill eliminates this obligation.
  2. The Collective Bargaining Act sets forth that the effects of a collective bargaining agreement survive its expiration if the parties have not expressly agreed that the effects would expire upon its termination. The Bill deletes the reference of the Collective Bargaining Act by which the effects of the collective bargaining agreement are extended in the absence of contrary provision agreed by the parties.
  3. The Bill contemplates the creation of a Union Registry (“Registro de Organizaciones Sindicales”). This Registry would be organized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Registration in this Registry is optional – not mandatory – and it is aimed at providing unions with a simple procedure to be recognized as legal entities.

The Bill does not contemplate other claims which have been opportunely made by the organizations and chambers of employers in Uruguay, including the imposition of limitations to occupation of workplaces or the regulation of certain union activities.

  1. Collective Bargaining Act – Recent Developments –Prohibition to use personal cellphones in the workplace

The Collective Bargaining Act does not only govern salary council negotiations but also bargaining at all labor law levels. The Collective Bargaining Act encourages negotiations between employers and employees not only in connection with salaries, but also as to general workplace conditions.

The ability to regulate the workplace has been recently used in the Hotel and Restaurant Sector. Two subgroups of this area of activity – covering workers of street food carts, bars and pubs – recently signed collective bargaining agreements. These agreements have been singled out because they gathered the agreement to prohibit the covered employees (more than 20,000) from using personal cellphones during working hours. It has been regulated that even in case of emergency, the employee cannot use his/her personal cellphone and has to use a telephone or cellphone line to be provided by the employer.