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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Honduras

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Honduras, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8894932.html [accessed 30 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 7,600,000
Capital: Tegucigalpa

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: 2
Attempted Murders: 1
Injuries: 205
Dismissals: 100

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Trade union membership levels remain very low, company unions predominate and temporary employment and subcontracting are reaching alarming proportions. Teachers are continuing the fight to hold on to their rights and to save their pension institute, the Instituto Nacional de Previsión del Magisterio (INPREMA). The teaching union's very existence will come under greater threat with the proposed Education Law, which seeks to privatise education and to repeal the Teachers' Statute. The conflicts with campesino associations in Bajo Aguán, the attacks and attempts to interfere in or even illegalise teachers' organisations, and the murders of trade unionists, journalists and social leaders are clear signs that Honduras has not yet managed to recover from the break with constitutional rule and that its public institutions are still far from being consolidated.

Background

The year 2011 was marked by the government's attempts to seek negotiated solutions to the growing social unrest and the increasingly widespread violence, at the same time as maintaining its policy of repression against any social expression of discontent or any action demanding better living conditions for the people of Honduras. According to the government's own figures, there were over 300 cases of femicide and 3,500 violent deaths in the first half of 2011 alone.

Trade union rights in law

Numerous restrictions apply to trade union rights despite initial guarantees. The law recognises the right to form and join trade unions. However, at least 30 workers are required to create a union, and there can only be one union in any given establishment. Foreigners enjoy limited freedom of association as they can not be elected to union leadership positions, and the law requires that 90% of a union's members must be Honduran nationals. While the law awards some protection to workers trying to form a union and to the union's leadership, the provisions are lacking especially concerning anti-union discrimination and dismissal.

The right to collective bargaining is recognised, but the Labour Code restricts the themes that can be included in bargaining. In addition, public employees are not allowed to conclude collective agreements, and collective disputes even in non-essential public services are subject to compulsory arbitration.

The right to strike is also coupled with restrictions, and an inordinate two-thirds of the votes of the total union membership is required to call a strike. Federations and confederations may not call a strike. Public employees may not take part in solidarity strikes, and employees of state-owned enterprises must give six month's notice or obtain government approval before striking. Finally, the authorities have the power to end disputes in certain services.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

New law on temporary employment by the hour: The government enacted the law on employment by the hour, which deregulates the labour market and virtually annuls the Labour Code. It offers further proof of the business world's control over the state. Collective bargaining remained at a very low level. The number of unions in the private sector is lower than that in the public sector.

Mass dismissals and attacks on trade unions and their leaders:

All forms of union action were hampered by the stigmatisation of trade union activism, the repeated violations of internal procedures and regulations in the workplace, the heavy pressure placed on workers to withdraw from unions and the dubious legal proceedings against trade union leaders. Countless unionised workers were dismissed.

The year 2011 saw the mass dismissal of executive members of the university workers' union Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (SITRAUNAH), the National Agrarian Institute workers' union Sindicato de Trabajadores del Instituto Nacional Agrario (SITRAINA), and the child welfare workers' union Sindicato de Trabajadores del Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (SITRAPANI). All were supposed to be protected against dismissal by trade union immunity. Members and leaders of the drinks industry union Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Bebida y Similares (STIBYS) suffered systematic persecution as part of an escalating campaign of repression that claimed the life of one worker and left several others injured.

Violations of the right to strike: Violations of the right to strike reached their highest expression in the education sector, which was threatened with the dissolution of its trade union organisations. This threat was accompanied by the mandate given to the police to violently repress strikes, thus crushing the right to protest and placing the teachers' physical integrity at risk.

Violations

Murders, attacks and arbitrary detentions, teacher killed and education union leaders attacked:

Ilse Ivania Velásquez Rodríguez, a teacher and deputy head of the Escuela República Argentina in Tegucigalpa died on 18 March when taking part in a peaceful demonstration called by the national teachers' union Magisterio Nacional. She was hit in the head by a tear gas canister and then hit by a vehicle during the repression by police and armed forces. On 8 September 2011, the popular journalist Medardo Flores was murdered by hired assassins, who shot him nine times. Medardo Flores was also part of the finance department of the Broad Popular Resistance Front (FARP). On 6 December, Honduran journalist Luz Marina Villalobos Paz was shot dead, riddled with bullets, by hit men on two motorbikes. Her cameraman and driver, Delmer Canales was also killed. Their vehicle was hit by 20 bullets.

On 22 October, Rafael Alejandro Vargas was killed along with his friend Carlos Pineda Rodríguez. Vargas was the son of the rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), Julieta Castellanos, who founded the Violence Observatory and stepped up her fight against crime in the country following her son's murder. The murder was allegedly perpetrated by elements of the National Police. The incident has led to a change in course with regard to impunity in Honduras. Between that date and the beginning of December, over 500 charges were brought against police officers, and Porfirio Lobo's government was forced to adopt urgent measures in response to popular pressure.

Pedro Vicente Elvir, president of the child welfare workers' union Sindicato de Trabajadores del Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (SITRAPANI), suffered an attempt on his life on 4 November after taking part in a march on 3 November against the Labour Code reforms being hatched in the National Congress.

Teaching union leaders arbitrarily detained: On 31 March, Luciano Barrera, of the teachers' negotiating committee set up to resolve the teachers' dispute, which had already lasted 19 days, giving rise to street protests in support of teachers' rights and against the plans to privatise education, was beaten and jailed by repressive state forces. Barrera was released the same night along with others who were also detained and beaten. As the dispute intensified, the courts placed injunctions and remand orders on 18 teachers. Hundreds of teachers were brutally beaten and injured.

Sabmiller systematically breaches collective agreement and the law:

Of the five multinationals that have owned the Cervecería Hondureña brewing company, Sabmiller is the one that has least complied with the collective agreements signed with the drinks industry trade union Sindicato de trabajadores de la industria de la bebida y similares (STIBYS).

In August 2010, the Labour Ministry informed the company's representative in Honduras of its duty to remedy the breaches within three days or face a financial penalty. On 9 May 2011, the Director of Legal Services within the Department of Labour and Social Security rejected the defence and the corrective measures filed by Sabmiller's legal representative in Honduras. Given the brewery's failure to comply, the Labour Ministry presented it on 11 June 2011 with a fine of Lps 55,000, payable to the State Treasury and a warning that the fine would be increased by 50% if the company reoffends. The Labour Inspectorate had confirmed Sabmiller's breaches of the collective agreement.

Serious human rights situation in Bajo Aguán valley:

Forty two members of campesino organisations have been killed, injured, disappeared or tortured over the last two years in Bajo Aguán. There have also been countless forced displacements, in breach of international standards, as well as threats and harassment carried out with total impunity. The growing militarisation of the landowners and palm oil producers in the area, and the absolute power they wield, were among the factors contributing to the violence against peasant organisations and families fighting for their right to land and a decent life.

On 14 August, Ramón Leodanys Lobo Hernández, a labourer employed by the Dinant Corporation, and a minor Wilmer Javier Melgar Ramos were killed on the lands linked to the small village of Paraná, in Rigores, Trujillo, in alleged clashes with security guards hired by the Dinant Corporation.

On 15 August, heavily armed unidentified assailants killed five people in a pick-up truck leaving the offices of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) in Sinaloa. Those murdered were Bonifacio Dubón, Elvin Geovanni Ortiz Castro, Eleuterio Lara Reyes, Karla Vanesa Cacho Castillo, all from San Pedro Sula and employed at the Pepsi bottling plant, and Migdalia Elizaldes Sarmiento Duarte, from Tocoa who had a food stand on the INA premises in Sinaloa. According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, no robbery was attempted at the scene of the crime.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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