The climate of polarization and instability that Peru is experiencing is reflected in labour conflicts. In the past year, widespread political unrest has been led by collective actions of labour protests. We have calculated that one labour claim is generated for every 36 Peruvian workers, either through an inspection by the labour authority (Sunafil) or a trial in the Judiciary. In fact, in three years, inspections have doubled and labour lawsuits are the second most common type of claim in the country, behind family matters and higher than criminal matters.
Based on this, we worked on the first Labour Conflict Study (ECLA) to find out if what was being reported in public information was borne out in experience in private sector workplaces. Labour conflicts arise within employers and, if they do not find a channel internally, they escalate to the streets, to social networks, to labour inspectors or judges.
More than 150 Human Resources leaders participated in the ECLA, a survey applied to all economic sectors and to organisations that have more than 100 workers on their payrolls. According to the responses received, 46% say that labour conflicts have increased this year, while 53% estimated that in 2023 they will increase much more. Currently, only 37% state that conflicts have remained the same, and only 17% say that they have decreased.
The economic situation (inflation especially), the political crisis and the effects of the pandemic (above all, its impact on income inequality), generates severe tensions and complaints within employers. Conflicts are expressed and channeled in various ways. Human Resources managers indicate that the largest number of claims are filed with managers and supervisors (72%) and 21% use anonymous complaints, but then follow claims with Sunafil (53%) and the Judiciary ( 38%). The use of sit-ins and strikes is low due to the level of unionisation (18%), but it is higher than complaints on social networks (11%).
What are the main causes of labour disputes? The work environment stands out. Lack of communication (49%) and connection between management and workers (27%), as well as mistreatment and abuse by employers (24%), lead the reasons for labour disputes. Another cause is that, according to Human Resources managers, the workers do not feel managers are responsive, nor do they perceive that the employer cares about them.
Then, the pressures of union leaders and other workers (46%) is a reason that cannot be ignored. Finally, 32% of claims are for a lack of pay increases and benefits. The absence of pay increases in the face of rampant inflation naturally generates union and/or individual claims.
Organisations must provide conditions for workers to find a sense of opportunity for their development. If employers see human resource management as a strategic partner and put the workers at the center of their decisions, they must genuinely work to provide for employee well-being, knowing their resources, values and needs.
The ECLA results show that employers intend to work in 2023 to improve the work environment and worker satisfaction (50%), internal communication (49%), organisational culture (36%), education and job training (36%), and talent retention (35%). Increasing salaries and compensation appears in the second level with 38%.
Sustainable organisations are those with the best workers at all levels. It is not enough to only have the best directors or managers. The workers, operators and employees (including outsourced and leased workers) are just as or more essential. To attract, develop and retain the best workers, it is essential to treat them with respect and equality.
There will always be labour conflicts; they are natural to the employment relationship. The key is that workers trust their managers and that the organisation has transparent processes to find the best solutions. The better the working environment, the fewer conflicts there will be. And conflict management corresponds to all managers. Managers who are systematic abusers should be forced to leave organisations, not the workers under them. Conversely, managers who inspire their workers must be rewarded with promotions.
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