5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliates in Guatemala are the Central General de Trabajadores de Guatemala (CGTG), the Confederación de Unidad Sindical de Guatemala (CUSG) and the Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de Guatemala (UNSITRAGUA).

In practice

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Union leader assassinated13-07-2016

The ITUC condemned the assassination of trade unionist Brenda Marleni Estrada Tambiento that took place on 19 June 2016. Brenda was the deputy coordinator of the Legal Advice Commission of the Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de Guatemala (UNSITRAGUA-HISTORICA), affiliated to the ITUC. She was also a member of the Guatemalan Organisers’ Group and of the Continental Legal Team of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA). The trade unionist was followed on the way back from the bus station, where she had left her father, trade union leader Jorge Estrada y Estrada, who is assisting with the negotiation of collective agreements in one of the banana plantations in the department of Izabal.

Violations of the right to life and integrity:31-03-2015

In August 2014, workers were physically assaulted and threatened by their employers within the context of a dispute over the failure to settle outstanding payments and the unfair dismissal of a number of workers at Plantaciones de Café el Ferrol, la Florida y Santa Elena (FEFLOSA S.A.). The General Labour Inspectorate subsequently accused the workers of trying to extort money from the company. On 7 August 2014, the workers filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office. By March 2015, they had still not received any notification regarding the investigations. On 30 September 2014, the company’s legal representative signed a document drawn up by the Labour Ministry, whereby it committed to settling the outstanding payments. At the end of October, only a portion of the amounts owed had been paid. This desperate situation led one of the workers to exercise his right “to resistance for the protection and defence of constitutional rights and guarantees”, occupying a shed on the plantation. The employer responded by refusing to pay the sums still owed to the workers as a whole and tried to forcefully remove the worker and his family. Whilst doing so, he ran over the workers’ wife, leaving her seriously injured.

Three members of the Jalapa municipal workers’ union Sindicato de Trabajadores Municipales de Jalapa were shot dead between 25 March and 8 April 2014. They had been campaigning to press the municipal authority to pay the seven months’ wages owed to them after being reinstated to their posts.

Gabriel Enrique Ciramagua Ruiz, organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. secretary of the Zacapa municipal workers’ union Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Municipalidad de Zacapa (SITRAMUZAC), was killed on 7 July 2014. Joaquín Chiroy y Chiroy, founder and deputy general secretary of the market workers’ union Sindicato Gremial de Vendedores y Similares del Mercado Municipal de Sololá was murdered by unknown assailants two hundred metres away from his home, at 4.30 a.m. on 28 June 2014. On 21 July, a request was made to the District Public Prosecution Service of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the department of Sololá to investigate the incident. The file is currently in the hands of the Public Prosecution Service, under case number MP086-2014-1528. There have been no results from the investigation to date.

Violations in the banana plantations30-12-2014

The banana plantation areas in the north and south of Guatemala have been the scene of serious labour and trade union rights violations as well as attacks on the physical integrity of their workers for several years. In 2013 and 2014, Guatemala was the world’s second largest banana exporter, generating huge profits for the companies in the sector. The workers, however, earn around US$ 12.9 for a 12 hour working day, without health or social security coverage. It has proved impossible to form trade union organisations in the southern region owing to the violence and the threats received. In the north, the workers formed SITRABI. This union has managed to survive in spite of the violence suffered by its members and families and the companies’ constant violations of collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement

Anti-union dismissals in Purulhá17-02-2016

On 17 Februay 2016, following the arrival of the new mayor, Sebastián Castro García, the municipal authorities of Purulhá, in the Baja Verpaz department, proceeded to unfairly dismiss 106 workers, including members of the union and its Executive Board, ignoring the legal protection covering union leaders.

Anti-union dismissals in San Rafael12-02-2016

On 12 February 2016, following the arrival of the new mayor, Carlos Alfonso Mazariegos Ramírez, the municipal authorities of San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta in the San Marcos department unfairly dismissed 15 workers, including the union’s Social Welfare Secretary.

Anti-union dismissals at Palo Gordo sugar mill25-11-2015

The Palo Gordo sugar mill in Guatemala has launched a series of selective dismissals targeting unionised workers, undermining the trade union organisation and the collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreement. The dismissals were staged as follows: 10 workers were dismissed on 28 February 2015, 10 more on 15 October 2015, another five on 6 November 2015 and 10 more on 20 November 2015. Membership of the trade union at the company, the Sindicato de Trabajadores del Ingenio Palo Gordo, fell from 283 to just 203 in November 2015. The company is waging a campaign to stop workers from joining the union and has set up a subdivision to block trade union action.

Trade unionist from Japala assassinated20-10-2015

On 24 September 2015, trade unionist Mynor Rolando Ramos Castillo, a member of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Municipalidad de Jalapa (SITRAMJ), was murdered. The municipal worker had been dismissed on account of his trade union activities and took part in the mobilisations to press the Mayor of Jalapa, Elmer Leónidas Guerra, to comply with the labour court ruling ordering the reinstatement of unfairly dismissed workers.

Transport union leader murdered15-05-2014

On 11 May 2014, transport union leader Luis Arnoldo López Esteban, from the Sindicato de Trabajadores del Transporte en Servicio Público de Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado (SITRASEPUCPA), in Jutiapa, was murdered. Two individuals requested a ride and then carried out the killing on reaching a secluded area.

Coca Cola suspends unionised workers30-04-2014

In April 2014, Coca Cola launched a strong media campaign to discredit the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Alimentos y Bebidas Atlántida S.A. (SITRAABASA), announcing that there are two groups of workers at the company, those who, regardless of their post, are considered “trustworthy” and those that are union members.

The company gave pay rises to the former while the unionised workers are being made to wait until the collective agreement is signed.

In response to this discrimination, a number of workers decided to refuse to do overtime. The company retaliated by suspending them from their posts on 24 April.

Unfair dismissals by Guatemalan Olympic Committee28-02-2014

On 31 January 2014, just ten days after taking office, the Guatemalan Olympic Committee (GOC) authorities dismissed twenty GOC workers (seven men and 13 women) without any justification. All of them were trade union members and among those fired were the union’s entire Executive Committee and Consultative Council.

Armed attack on trade unionists in banana sector15-01-2014

The Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de Guatemala (UNSITRAGUA-HISTORICA) reported an armed attack on workers at the agricultural company Omagua Campo Verde I y II, in Puerto Barrios, Izabal, which supplies the multinational company Chiquita Brands.
Unknown gunmen opened fire on a group of 11 workers holding a meeting in the trade union headquarters on 10 January 2014. The General Secretary, Juan de Dios Sagastume Rodas, was hit by a bullet in the knee.
Despite being immediately informed of the incident, the National Civil Police did not appear until the following day, when two officers went to interview Sagastume Rodas at the hospital in Puerto Barrios.

Young trade unionist murdered10-01-2014

The ITUC denounced the murder of young trade unionist Marlon Dagoberto Vásquez López, aged just 19. Marlon was a member of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Construcción y Servicios de Guatemala (SINCSG), a student and an active member of the young trade unionists network in Quetzaltenango. His body was found on 6 January 2014 in the municipality of Concepción Chiquirichapa.

Trade unionists sacked by municipal authority in Jutiapa07-01-2014

On 6 January 2014, the Confederación de Unidad Sindical de Guatemala (CUSG) denounced the dismissal of ten workers from the Jutiapa municipal authority. Nine of them were trade union members.

Union busting at Malacatán Municipal Council16-12-2013

On 3 December 2013, the Confederación de Unidad Sindical de Guatemala (CUSG) reported that the Municipal Authority of Malacatán in San Marcos was demanding an authorization from any municipal worker wishing to join a union. According to the CUSG, the mayor, Juan Raul Fuentes Montes, publicly stated that he “does not want trade unionists in the municipality”.

Attempt on dock union leader’s life13-12-2013

On 14 November, armed assailants forcibly entered a relative’s house, just yards away from Ramos’ home. They said they were following orders “from above” and produced a photo of Ramos, stating that he was their real target.

On 22 November 2013, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) denounced an armed attack on the family of Lázaro Ramos, General Secretary of the ITF-affiliated Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Portuaria Quetzal (STEPQ).

The STEPQ and the ITF believe that this incident is directly linked to the measures being deployed to force the union to abandon its legal action to stop plans to privatise part of the port and grant a concession to the Spanish company TCB (Terminal de Contenedores de Barcelona).

Labour dispute at Industria de Café SA24-09-2013
Coca Cola puts pressures on workers not to join a union 24-09-2013

Only a few weeks after setting up the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Alimentos y Bebidas Atlántida SA (SITRAABASA) in the Tuculután bottling plant recently acquired by Coca Cola, union members came under attack from the management. On 12 February Arthur Goossens, President of the Board of Directors and the firm’s legal representative, held a seven-hour long meeting with all the staff and put pressure on workers to stop them from joining the union.

Threats to trade unionists in Purulha31-01-2013

In January 2013, trade unionists at the Purulha municipality in Baja Verapaz brought a case before the relevant court on account of death threats they had received. However, not only were the workers not provided the protective measures ordered by the court but, in a note to the judge, the Minister of the Interior accused them of failing to attend a meeting to which they had not been called.

Japala municipality dismisses workers24-09-2013

The mayor of Jalapa, Elmer Leónidas Guerra Calderón, has since his arrival in the municipality undertaken a campaign of anti-union practices that has left in its wake 260 dismissals since April 2012. Despite a court order to reinstate the workers, the mayor refused to comply. The situation was resolved in December 2012 as a result of strong pressure and measures implemented by the ITUC and the TUCA.

Anti-union harassment in the municipalities24-09-2013

Since the arrival in office of the new municipal authorities on 15 January 2012, workers in this sector have experienced serious violations of their fundamental labour rights ranging from harassment, death threats, bullying, intimidation, unfair dismissals, gender discrimination, failure to implement the minimum wage established by law, violation of the rights guaranteed by the Collective Agreement and the murder of trade union leaders and grassroots members.

Land Registry dismisses workers24-09-2013

In February 2013, an attempt by workers at the Land Registry to form a trade union was met with mass dismissals and the refusal by the authorities to recognise the legal standing of the organisation.

Attack by Koa Modas on trade unionists24-09-2013

Since the trade union was set up in June 2012, the clothing company Koa Modas has been campaigning to discredit the members of the Executive Committee. In October 2012, the trade union leader Mariela Miranda was assaulted and received a death threat. In April 2013, 13 workers who were members of the trade union were dismissed.

Directorate General for Labour is not registering trade unions24-09-2013

On 12 June 2013, the Movimiento Sindical y Popular Autónomo Guatemalteco denounced that the Directorate General for Labour had not registered or authorised the statutes of several organisations, including the Sindicato de la Municipalidad de San José El Rodeo, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Educación de Sololá, the Sindicato de Trabajadores del Zoológico La Aurora and the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Purulá.

Delay in registering collective bargaining agreement31-07-2012

In July 2012, members of the Union of Workers of the City of Pueblo Nuevo Viñas, Department of Santa Rosa, presented the draft collective agreement on working conditions to the General Labour Inspectorate. After months without a response, the union asked the Inspectorate for an update and was told that the file was missing.

Anti-union discrimination31-01-2012

On 15 January 2012, 24 workers were dismissed by the Mayor of the municipality of San José El Rodeo for having started the process to set up the Union of Municipality Workers.

In June 2012, Ingenio Palo Gordo, one of the main companies in the sugar cane sector, fired seven members of the union’s Executive Committee.

Between 2011 and 2012, the Presidential Human Rights Commission dismissed almost every member of the union’s Executive Committee.

Violence against unions16-08-2013

Trade union members and leaders constantly face physical violence, threats and kidnappings. At least 53 trade unionists have been murdered in the last six years.

Unions operate in climate of violence31-12-2010

While the law contains provisions to protect trade union rights, in reality Guatemala’s de facto power groups successfully use various practices to prevent the creation of trade unions, particularly in the private sector. The majority of trade union organisations have been the target of assassinations, violations, attacks, threats, smear campaigns, infiltration, parallelism and exclusion from all social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. forums. Despite these difficulties they have continued their socio-political work, operating as an independent trade union movement. Municipal authorities frequently violate trade union rights and working conditions, in an atmosphere of violence and threats.

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