Guatemala

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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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.

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.

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.

On 31 January 2014, the Guatemalan Olympic Committee (COG) unfairly dismissed 20 workers, all union members. Since then, the employers have been threatening and coercing the other members, telling them to leave the union or face dismissal.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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