Guatemala’s President defies the ILO by cancelling all collective agreements in the public sector

March 24, 2015
Only days before Guatemala is due for discussion at the ILO’s Governing Body, President General Otto Pérez Molina, takes the unprecedented initiative of prohibiting the negotiation of collective agreements in the public sector, on the grounds that austerity measures are needed to deal with a massive fiscal deficit.

This decision, one of a series of drastic decisions to affect public services, goes against the government’s commitment to a Road Map negotiated with the ILO and designed precisely to guarantee freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining of public sector workers, in accordance with ILO Convention 154, ratified on 29 October 1996.

In solidarity with the position taken by our sister unions in Guatemala, we emphatically reject this measure. Guatemala is believed to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a trade unionist. Many trade union leaders and activists have been killed or threatened and most of the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

PSI led a high-level delegation to Guatemala in August 2013, where PSI General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli, told the President and his Labour, Health and Interior Ministers that,

"Defending the rights of our affiliate trade union members in Guatemala is our top priority – and it will remain so until the situation for trade unionists and workers in this country improves."

The government of Guatemala has so far failed to comply with the Road Map. Neither is it complying with the terms of collective agreements already signed after long negotiations, such as the collective agreements reached by unions with the Ministry of Health and the Municipal Water Company (EMPAGUA).

PSI made it clear in follow-up meetings with the President, in March 2014 and more recently with the Deputy Minister of Labour on 4 March 2015, that there is a need to begin sector level talks with public service employees to discuss the issues affecting and impeding the development of this important sector.

PSI has sent a letter to the President of Guatemala calling on him to change policies and to introduce national policy promoting respect for trade unions and encouraging collective bargaining.

PSI is calling on all its affiliates to send a letter of protest calling on the Guatemalan government to respect and promote human rights, including the right to a dignified life, decent work, freedom of association and collective bargaining.

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