The Honduran government has accepted a direct contacts mission from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), following a recommendation from the ILO workers’ group, supported by employers. Honduras was the first case examined by the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards this year because of the persistent and serious nature of trade union rights’ violations.
“We acted as a team and the government knows we scored a goal today,” said Julia Ondina Ortiz, speaking in Geneva for the Federation of Teachers’ Organisations of Honduras (FOMH). The direct contacts mission will examine the application of ILO Convention 98 on the right to organise and collective bargaining, make recommendations to the government, and will report back to the Committee.
EI General Secretary Fred Van Leeuwen welcomed the outcome. He visited Honduras in April this year and pledged full support to the unions in their efforts to seek a dialogue with the government. “We will continue to provide support to our affiliates in Honduras as they prepare for the direct contacts mission,” he said.
“We also urge the government to meet the promises it gave to the international community today to reform the Labour Code and to allow for effective collective bargaining in the public sector, among other important issues. An effective first step would be to end the dismissal proceedings against the teacher union leaders and reinstate all unionists dismissed last year.”
The four teachers’ unions in Honduras affiliated to EI sent a strong delegation to the Conference in Geneva. Julia Ondina Ortiz spoke at the ILO Committee and provided detailed information about the extremely difficult situation facing teachers’ unions in Honduras.
The teachers’ unions worked closely with the national trade union centres to achieve this successful outcome. Other countries which spoke in support of the direct contacts mission included Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the USA. In addition, the FOMH and EI have submitted a complaint against the government of Honduras to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the US national trade union centre, has also submitted a complaint through the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) mechanisms, concerning violations of trade union rights in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs).
In her statement to the ILO, Ondina Ortiz condemned the government. She recalled that over 1000 teachers were dismissed in 2012 just because they had attended trade union meetings. In 2013, a further 50 teachers have been threatened with dismissal for the same reason.
The Ministry of Education refused to renew the trade union permits for elected officials and has dismissed 20 leaders who refused to return to work on a question of principle. The check-off system for trade union dues has been suspended since March 2012.
The government has also demanded that the unions provide reports on their activities and finances, which constitutes direct interference in the internal affairs of the unions.
The Teachers’ Statute is not respected and the government has frozen salaries and declared any strike action illegal. There has also been a consistent campaign against trade union leaders whom the government describes as the mafia, common criminals and corrupted.
Ondina Ortiz recalled the tragic death of Ilse Ivania Velasquez Rodriguez in March 2011 because of police violence during a peaceful union demonstration. She feared that unless the ILO took action, such tragedies might be repeated.