Honduran Unions Denounce the Lobo Administration’s Assault on Labor
The United Federation of Honduran Workers (FUTH) has denounced what it is calling the
targeted extermination of unions, led by the Lobo Administration. The denunciation comes on
the tails of antiunion sentiment in the form of an increased number of threats, attempted murders,
violations of collective bargaining agreements and illegal layoffs.
Juan Barahona, President of FUTH, said that, “We denounce the persecution and criminalization
of the working class by the regime, as well as the harassment, destabilization and criminal
attacks levied against union leaders.” Barahona additionally cites the stigmatization of union
participation and leadership as damaging to the labor movement.
The FUTH has held a number of demonstrations in recent months to denounce the assault on
unionization and is calling on unions around the country to demand an end to the systemic
violence and stigmatization.
Telecommunication Union Takes Over State Facilities
On March 14, the Union of Telecommunication Workers (SITRATEL) took over the principal
state telecom facilities in order to protest a series of layoffs led by General Romeo Vásquez
Velásquez, the military leader of the 2009 coup and now the head of the state-owned telephone
company Hondutel. Workers in the technical sector comprised most of the 50 dismissed workers.
On March 1, STIBYS union member Eduardo Argueta Santos was shot in the face by two
unidentified men in a taxi-like vehicle on his way to work at a brewery. STIBYS has recently
denounced what it is calling a targeted, systemic campaign of violence directed at its members
and other labor leaders in Honduras.
In addition, on March 30 a leader in the Union of Industrial Beverage Workers (STIBYS) was
injured as a result of tear gas poisoning in Tegucigalpa, and the next morning unidentified men
threw rocks at vehicles parked outside the STIBYS building. Yolanda López, Secretary of
STIBYS central, said that she felt as though she was “being suffocated by tear gas and that [her]
life was in danger.”
STIBYS has also denounced CABCorp (PepsiCo) for continuing to hinder the signing of a
collective bargaining agreement. PepsiCo has delayed negotiations for over three months and
refuses to make positions in the machine shop, vendors, etc. permanent, therefore preventing a
number of workers from joining a collective bargaining agreement and achieving job security.
Negotiations Fail Over Minimum Wage Increases
Following almost two months of negotiations, the Honduran labor movement and the business
sector failed to agree on a minimum wage percent increase for 2011. The labor movement,
represented by the three centrals (CUTH, CGT, and CTH), asked for a 15% raise to respond to
the increase in the cost of living, while the business sector asked for a 3.6% increase. Labor
Deputy Minister Carlos Montes said that the raise could not be less than the rate of inflation,
which has reached 7%.
Ultimately, negotiations faltered because the government and business sector refused to accept
labor’s position that the minimum wage law include workers in the maquiladora sector. The lack
of consensus means that President Porfirio Lobo Sosa is required to set a new minimum wage by
April 30. In 2010 President Lobo did not do so until October when he announced weak increases
that many perceived to be an insult to the working class.
Two Trade Unionists Killed in Protests; Violence Continues
On March 18, police and military personnel evicted teachers from the National Teacher’s Pension
Institute (INPREMA), which they had been occupying for two weeks as a part of their demand
that the government pay back the more than $80 million it owes to the pension fund. Police also
surrounded and threw tear gas inside the building of the Association of Secondary School
Teachers in Honduras (COPEMH), where 27 teachers and parents were eating and recuperating,
and raided the National Autonomous University of Honduras. One teacher, Ilse Ivania Velázquez
Rodriguez, was killed on March 18 when she was deliberately hit by a tear gas canister at closerange
and then struck by a person driving a vehicle who was also affected by tear gas.
On March 25, police detained 18 teachers and 7 youth. While the underage youth were released,
the teachers are undergoing trial on charges of illicit protesting and sedition.
On Saturday, March 26, Jaime Donaire, a member of the Union of Workers in the National
registry (SITRARENAPE) and coordinator of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP)
in the province of Comayagua, was assassinated. On March 28, the renowned Afro-
Honduran Garifuna leader Miriam Miranda was arrested and prevented from receiving medical
attention for more than four hours for the burns she received from tear gas canisters that were
reportedly fired directly at her stomach during her arrest, causing significant damage. She was
also reportedly dragged to the ground, beaten, and subjected to racially-charged insults by police.