Honduras: labor struggles heat up
Representatives of Honduran unions and grassroots movements agreed on Oct. 30 to schedule a series of actions over the next two weeks around four issues: the national minimum wage, a law suspending pay increases for teachers, restrictions on pay increases for other public employees, and proposed legislation to allow temporary work.
Meeting at the Vicente Cáceres Central Institute in Tegucigalpa, representatives of the main labor federations, teachers' organizations and the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), which grew out of opposition to a June 2009 military coup d'état, decided to hold informational assemblies with teachers and public workers around the country on Nov. 1, to be followed by marches in Tegucigalpa and the northern industrial city of San Pedro Sula on Nov. 3. These actions are to culminate in a "national civic strike"—a day of protests with some work stoppages--on Nov. 11.
As of Oct. 30 Porfirio ("Pepe") Lobo Sosa had still not announced an increase in the minimum wage that was due in April. He finally set Nov. 1 as the date for the announcement, but the unions said the anticipated increase of 6% would not let workers catch up with increases in the cost of living.
The unions seem even more concerned about legislation that General Workers Central (CGT) general secretary Daniel Durón said would liquidate gains made by workers over many years. The National Congress voted 79-3 night of Oct. 27--with 25 legislative deputies abstaining and 21 absent from the session--to approve a measure proposed by Lobo to suspend for one year an automatic annual wage increase for teachers that was legislated in 1993. The new law also suspended special arrangements for other public employees.
Finance Minister William Chong Wong said on Oct. 28 that these measures were necessary because the government doesn't have the "economic capacity" to pay increases. In Spain the government has lowered salaries in the public sector because of the world economic crisis, he said, but in Honduras "no one's salary is being reduced." The FNRP and teachers and public employees unions protested the vote with a march through the streets of Tegucigalpa and a sit-in in front of the National Congress on Oct. 28. (La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Oct. 31; Prensa Latina, Oct. 28; EFE, Oct. 28, via Terra.com, Spain; FNRP communiqué #76, Oct. 28)
The proposed Law of Temporary Work would allow a business to utilize temporary or part-time workers for up to 40% of its workforce. Current law only allows full-time, permanent employment. The unions say this will reduce benefits for the part-time workers and allow the exploitation of seasonal employees. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog, Oct. 24)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 31.