Study of labor laws and obstacles to compliance in Guatemala

Publication Date: 

March 1, 2004



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This report, commissioned by ILRF in Guatemala in 2003, found evidence of the following labor rights violations in summary:

Right to Associate

There were 21 cases of union rights abuses in Guatemala filed before the ILO´s Committee on Freedom of Association between 1994 and 2002.

The Constitution and the Labor Code establish that only Guatemalan-born workers may form or belong to labor unions or their Executive Committees. These dispositions go against Article 2 of ILO Convention 87, which states that there shall be no restrictions or previous authorization required to form or belong to a labor union.

Labor inspectors are prevented from entering companies in conflict, and this makes it impossible for them to reinstate fired workers.

Labor judges require non-unionized workers to first exhaust the direct negotiation procedure, without taking into account that the law only requires this for unionized workers who want to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. The judges are therefore imposing requirements that are not established in the law.

Child Labor

According to the 2002 Census, one in every 10 Guatemalan children between the ages of 7 and 14 was active in the labor market.

The Labor Code establishes the minimum age for employment at 14. However there are exceptions on the prohibition on hiring children, as long as the hiring is done through the minor's legal representatives and the legal representatives receive monetary compensation for the child's work.

In practice these regulations are not complied with, because the State does not have the capacity to enforce them. Thus, there are children under age 14 working in many companies, without the authorization of the General Labor Inspectorate.

Wages, Hours and Working Conditions

Guatemalan businessmen prefer paying fines rather than complying with national legislation on wages and benefits, as the fines are smaller than the actual amount of money they would have to pay for benefits to registered employees.


Companies are not required to register bank accounts in their own names, but instead register them under the names of individuals, in order to avoid embargoes. This makes it virtually impossible to carry out a court sentence.