Dismissed union leaders at the Ternium steel plant in Guatemala – ranked as one of the world’s worst countries for workers - have won a major victory in their two-year struggle to uphold the right to organize.
Following a court decision ordering Ternium to reinstate the workers with the payment of lost wages, nine dismissed union leaders of the SITRATERNIUM union entered the plant on 22 August. The workers were accompanied by the court officer and staff from the United Nations office in Guatemala. Two of the dismissed workers have yet to be reinstated as a result of an error in the spelling in their names and the union is remaining on the alert to ensure the mistake is put right and that the workers receive their back wages.
The workers were illegally fired in 2012 after forming a union to stand up for their rights. Company management had constantly bragged that it could do whatever it wanted with its workers and that it didn’t care about government regulations. Abuses at the company included denying workers the right to take sick leave and forcing them to work seven days a week.
For the past two years the union leaders have endured major hardship in their struggle to uphold their rights. The members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Ternium de Guatemala (SITRATERNIUM), which is a member of IndustriALL affiliate FESTRAS, have been buoyed in their efforts by the unconditional support of the Ternium union network as well as by the solidarity of many other unions both nationally and internationally.
According to the ITUC Global Rights Index released in May 2014, Guatemala is ranked as one of the world’s worst countries for workers, who effectively have no access to the rights spelled out in their country’s legislation and are therefore exposed to gross unfair labour practices. As a result of decades of repression, fewer than 2 percent of Guatemalan workers are union members
The leading Latin American steel company Ternium has production centers in Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and the United States. The company manufactures steel and value-added products.