Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 15:14 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - El Salvador

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - El Salvador, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
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: 6,200,000
Capital: San Salvador
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The anti-union culture among employers remains strong and continues to hamper the full exercise of trade union rights. Numerous municipal employees were dismissed, including union members, and a trade union leader was murdered.


Despite some recent improvements, trade union rights remain excessively restricted. Decree No. 33 of June 2009, which modified article 47 of the Constitution, extended the right to organise to public servants. However members of the legal profession and those employed in the District Attorney's Office are still excluded. To form a union at least 35 members are required, and prior authorisation from the government is needed to register. Members of a union's leadership bodies must also be Salvadorian by birth.

While the right to collective bargaining is recognised, in order to engage in collective bargaining for the first time, a union's membership must represent at least 51% of the workforce in the establishment. Collective agreements concluded with a public institution must also be endorsed by the respective ministry, and are subject to prior consultation with the Ministry of Finance.

All strikes must relate to a collective agreement or the defence of the workers' professional interests. A protected strike must be backed by an absolute majority of the employees in a workplace, and unions must also wait four days after receiving the approval of the Ministry of Labour before beginning a strike. Public and municipal employees are banned from striking. Strikes in essential services are likewise prohibited. However there is no reference in the law indicating which services are essential. Finally, the Director-General of Labour has the power to determine the extent of the minimum service at the request of one of the parties.


Background: El Salvador continues to be plagued by criminal violence and the government has mobilised the army to assist the police in the fight against crime. The country has been hard hit by the economic crisis, undermining respect for trade union rights and their application, especially in the private sector. Workers formed 50 unions over the course of the year, including 18 in the public sector (36%); these organisations were registered by the labour administration.

Employers' organisations waged a campaign to increase working hours in the maquilas, which trade union organisations opposed. The labour administration also refused to approve the proposal.

Trade union rights crushed: The 67,000 workers, mainly women, employed in El Salvador's 15 export processing zones (EPZ) are faced with exploitation, mistreatment, verbal abuse, threats and sexual harassment. The textile maquila is characterised by its staunch anti-union policy, dismissing workers attempting to exercise their trade union rights, be it forming a union or joining an existing one. EPZ employees are considered to work in slave-like conditions. Many public employees are also denied the right to organise and there are so many restrictions on the right to strike that it is practically impossible to exercise it. Private sector workers are faced with heavy restrictions as well as excessive requirements and red tape when trying to form or affiliate with a union. Anti-union practices are extremely widespread and the public authorities do not take adequate measures to stop them. Furthermore, the law does not provide for the reinstatement of workers unfairly dismissed on account of their union membership or activities.

Leadership of construction workers' union SUTC denied registration: Members of the construction workers' union SUTC (Sindicato Unión de Trabajadores de la Construcción) denounced the refusal of the Labour Minister, Dr Victoria María Velásquez de Avilés, to register the SUTC executive body freely elected by the workers in January, based on claims of legal flaws that have no juridical foundation. The minister's decision affected the working conditions of over 30,000 workers, as their collective agreement has expired and cannot be renegotiated until the union's leadership-elect is registered.

Municipal employees sacked: On 6 January, the municipal authorities in Ayutuxtepeque unfairly dismissed 12 male and six female workers, all members of the municipal trade union SITRAMAY. It was reported that the municipal authorities had established a reign of terror over its employees, dismissing workers, threatening them, increasing their working hours, docking their wages without justification and cutting their benefits.

Trade union leader murdered: On 15 January, Victoriano Abel Vega, general secretary of the municipal union in Santa Ana SITRAMSA, affiliated to the independent workers' confederation CATS (Central Autónoma de Trabajadores Salvadoreños), was murdered by heavily armed men. His murder came as action denouncing the dismissals of municipal workers was being taken. Trade union leaders reported that he had already received death threats linked to his trade union activities in the western part of the country.

Dismissed for forming a union: Luís Ortega, general secretary of the newly formed union of Legislative Assembly workers SITRAL (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Asamblea Legislativa) denounced his "imminent dismissal" and the attempts by the current leaders in the Congress to "behead" this movement within the highest state body. Ortega was elected as general secretary of the union, however, ever since the organisation was recognised by the Labour Ministry, it has been faced with a series of obstacles from Congress leaders refusing to receive the union representatives at meetings to present their aims and work programme. When the dismissal was announced, the public workers' federation FESITRASEP (Federación de Sindicatos de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores del Sector Público), supporting SITRAL's Executive Board, joined with the union in filing an appeal with the Supreme Court of Justice to halt the decision to sack the general secretary.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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