24 January, 2013Trade unions are to write to their governments asking them to urge the ILO Governing Body to approve the creation of a Commission of Inquiry to examine the grave and systematic violations of ILO Convention 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in Guatemala.
Guatemalan workers are the victims of intense anti-trade union discrimination and are often dismissed if they join a union. Union leaders have been killed and many have been threatened with death. According to the annual report of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), at least 64 trade unionists have been killed since 2007, with six killed in 2012.
The report states that in 2011, Oscar Humberto González Vásquez, leader of the Izabal Banana Workers’ Union (SITRABI) was murdered. He was shot 35 times. Idar Joel Hernández Godoy, Finance Secretary of SITRABI, was killed the previous month. In 2012, Miguel Ángel González Ramírez, was killed while he was walking to the banana plantation where he worked. He was carrying his son in his arms at the time. However, this fate is not reserved only for banana plantation workers. In July 2011, Lesbia Elías Xurup was hacked to death at her home in the community of La Selva, Santo Domingo, Suchitepéquez. She was a member of the Communities in Resistance against the Unión FENOSA company. The following day, María Santos Mejía, a member of the Independent Maquilas Union executive, died after being shot in the head by two individuals on a motorbike.
Guatemalan workers have been bringing this situation to the attention of the ILO for two decades. The Commission of Experts on the Application of Standards and the Committee on Freedom of Association have, at various times, denounced Guatemala’s failure to amend its laws and practices to bring them into line with Convention 87.
Given that violations and killings continue to take place, the ITUC is organising a campaign to urge the ILO Governing Body, at its March 2013 session, to approve the creation of a Commission of Inquiry to examine the grave and systematic violations of ILO Convention 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in Guatemala.
In January and February, the international trade union movement will lobby its governments to support the creation of an ILO Commission of Inquiry. Trade unions in countries whose governments are on the ILO Council of Administration will write to their governments on this matter, as will unions in countries that are not represented on the Council.
The ITUC requests unions to keep it informed of the measures they take on this issue and on the responses they receive from governments.
IndustriALL Global Union has joined the campaign and calls on its affiliated trade unions to participate in the action to defend the freedom of association in Guatemala.