Honduras: teachers strike for back pay

Honduran teachers started an open-ended strike on Feb. 9, when students were to begin registering for a new semester. The strike continued a campaign that unions representing the nation’s 48,000 teachers started in January before schools reopened; the earlier actions included “informational assemblies” and sit-ins to protest the government’s delays in paying salaries for some 2,600 teachers and its failure to pay full year-end bonuses. On the morning of Feb. 12, after a meeting with Education Minister Marlon Breve Reyes and aides to President Manuel Zelaya, union leaders agreed to suspend the strike while the government sought a solution. The unions also dropped their demand for Breve’s resignation.

The Honduran daily La Prensa reported that the strike was only 10% effective, while another daily, La Tribuna, said teachers shut down many of the schools and held informational assemblies in them. There was also disagreement about the number of teachers owed back pay. National Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio said only 113 teachers were in this category. Custodio insisted that he was “defending the human rights of the children and youths” against the teachers. “We have the right, in a real democracy, to live free from fear,” he said. “Before, from the soldiers, and now, from you teachers.” However, officials from the Finance Secretariat said that while only 300 teachers were owed back pay, about 2,400 were owed vacation pay, bonuses and other benefits. (Latin American Herald Tribune, Feb. 10 from EFE; La Prensa, Feb. 12: La Tribuna, Feb. 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 15

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America.