Sindicato de las Empresas Varias de Medellín c. Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Municipio de Medellín y las Empresas Varias de Medellín s/ amparo. Sentencia T-568. [ENG]
Protection action due to arbitrary layoffs. Binding nature of recommendations issued by ILO bodies upon the State of Colombia. Possibility of restricting the right to strike only when essential public services are at stake.
The Ministry of Labor declared a strike by a group of workers at Las Empresas Varias de Medellín (EVM) to be illegal alleging the right to strike was prohibited in public services. As a consequence, 209 workers were laid off. After their claims were internally rejected, the laid-off workers filed a complaint with the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Administrative Board (AB) requesting protection for their right to work and to unionize. The AB urged the Government to either hire them back in their prior positions or pay severance payments; to take measures to have an independent body make decisions regarding the legality of strikes and to modify Labor Code provisions prohibiting strikes in a wide range of services that cannot be considered essential in a strict sense. Given the State's failure to comply, the EVM union filed a protection action with the Constitutional Court. The Court stated that the interpretation and application of labor rights should integrate constitutional standards and ratified international treaties. Consequently, the right to unionize and the right to strike must be respected and can only be restricted when essential public services are at stake. The Court concluded that, since Colombia is a Founding State Party to the ILO and has ratified, among others, ILO Conventions 87 and 98, the recommendation issued by ILO AB was an express binding order for the State of Colombia. Consequently, the Court ordered EVM to hire the workers back and to pay them the salaries and benefits owed to them since the layoffs.
Keywords: Sindicato de las Empresas Varias de Medellín c. Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Municipio de Medellín y las Empresas Varias de Medellín s/ amparo. Sentencia T-568, Labor, Rights
The decision has been complied with only partially. The failure to hire back 29 workers, as well as the Government's refusal to indemnify the union are currently being reviewed by the ILO Freedom of Association Committee.
Petitioner: Sindicato de las Empresas Varias de Medellín Defendants: Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Medellín City Government (Colombia) and Empresas Varias de Medellín (http://www.eevvm.com.co/).
The Constitutional Court's decision regarding the binding nature of recommendations issued by ILO bodies upon the State of Colombia is very significant, because the same criterion could be applied to recommendations issued by human rights protection bodies in general, even if these are not of judicial nature.