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Labor Troubles in El Salvador, Urgent Action Needed!!!

An article discussing labor transgressions by the government of El Salvador. It involves FTAA and globalization.
Reposted from a CBLOC email:
PCASC/CBLOC
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee
616 E. Burnside, Portland, Oregon 97214
503.236.7916, < pcasc@igc.org>

CBLOC, the Cross Border Labor Organizing Coalition,
meets the first and third Wednesday of each month
at 7:00 in our office at 616 E. Burnside.
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Since President Bush signed Fast Track into law this week, 13 Salvadoran union members have been fired, 11 from the STISSS (medical workers union) and 2 electrical workers from the STSEL union. The timing of these actions is no coincidence! ARENA sees the passage of Fast Track as the signal to pave the way for CAFTA by attempting to eliminate its greatest obstacle: public sector unions.

The STSEL is planning a big march on August 15th that may lead to a national energy strike and the STISSS is also resisting. Both unions call on our solidarity! We must respond! Distribute this action alert as widely as possible, mobilize your committees, table this weekend, make calls, send letters, raise money; the workers' lives are on the line, (Compañero Ricardo Monge, the Secretary General of STISSS, has received numerous death threats directed towards himself and his family) we must show them our support.

Thanks to CISPES mobilizing in 1999-2000, we raised over $40,000 in material aid for a strike fund that allowed STISS workers to stay on strike for 4 months and halt the privatization process. They are now under attack again. We will keep you updated on all the latest happenings from the front lines but please start mobilizing! Please contact your National Office contact person with any questions. Also, be on the look out for a more in depth informe to be coming your way soon.

In Solidarity,

CISPES National Office

URGENT PLEASE READ!
____________________________________________________________________________
CISPES Emergency Action Alert:

SALVADORAN GOVERNMENT FIRES THIRTEEN WORKERS IN MOVE TO BUST UNIONS AND CRUSH RESISTANCE TO US/CENTRAL AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (CAFTA)
Unions Fight Back - Urgent Pressure Needed

August 8, 2002

On August 1, government agencies fired two union activists from the electricity workers' union STSEL and eleven from the health care workers' union STISSS as part of an ongoing attempt to destroy these two militant unions. Now that Bush has been awarded "fast track" authority to negotiate CAFTA, the Salvadoran right seeks to eliminate the greatest obstacle to a free trade agreement: public sector unions.

The STSEL and the STISSS unions have led the charge against the privatization of public services, and against CAFTA and the Plan Puebla-Panama infrastructure megaproject that would turn the region into a giant free trade zone. Repression has been heavy: more than 30 STSEL activists and 200 STISSS activists have been fired, and STISSS Secretary-General Ricardo Monge has received death threats against himself and his family. Two weeks ago, owners of the richest corporations in El Salvador described public sector unions as "one of the greatest obstacles to privatization" and ordered that the government privatize the electricity generation utility CEL and the public health care system ISSS. With the recent privatization of security at some ISSS hospitals, the government has begun the process of militarizing the work centers. Mauricio Ramos, director of the ISSS, told union representatives that privatization "is coming, and you had better negotiate with the private sector."

Both unions decided to resist. STSEL workers adopted the slogan, "Not One More Firing": they approached the CEL to negotiate, but director Guillermo Sol Bang refused to meet with them. The union has launched a series of protest activities, to culminate in a march on August 15; if the CEL administration still refuses to negotiate, they are prepared to call a national electricity strike. STISSS workers are also resisting privatization and demanding the reinstatement of their coworkers. Together with other health care unions, they have begun a massive education and organizing campaign among ISSS users in the urban and rural sectors. The union has hung banners and signs at health centers across the country, and will soon take to the streets in mass protest.

Salvadoran Workers Call On Us For International Solidarity!

Recognizing that union busting attacks on the STSEL and the STISSS are part of a global neoliberal strategy to eliminate the strongest obstacles to CAFTA, both unions have called for international solidarity. "CAFTA negotiations mean that [US activists] have a distinct opportunity to affect policy in El Salvador," explains STSEL Secretary-General Alirio Romero. "We must work together with our allies in the US to stop privatization, and to defeat CAFTA. It is the same struggle."
TAKE ACTION:

1. Write to Guillermo Sol Bang, director of the CEL (email  rmorenof@cel.gob.sv; fax 011.503.211.6232), and to Mauricio Ramos, director of the ISSS (email  isss@infocentros.gob.sv, fax 011.503.260.3703), and demand that they:
 Rehire all fired union activists still struggling for reinstatement!
 Stop the illegal firings of union workers!
 Stop the privatization and concession of public services in El Salvador!

2. Call Andrea Rodriguez, the El Salvador Desk Officer at the US State Department, at (202) 647-3505 or send faxes to (202) 647-2597 (sample letter attached), and demand that she:
 Not open official CAFTA negotiations, because of the Salvadoran government's constant violations of labor rights!
 Pressure the Salvadoran government to reinstate all fired workers at the CEL and the ISSS!
 Pressure the Salvadoran government to stop the illegal firings of public-sector workers in El Salvador!
 Pressure the Salvadoran government to stop the privatization and concession of public services in El Salvador!

3. Contribute to the emergency fund! CISPES has established an emergency fund to support the STSEL and STISSS union members in this critical time. Checks made out to "CISPES Education Fund," with "Emergency Fund" marked in the memo line, can be sent to: CISPES Emergency Fund, 130 W. 29th Street, 9th Fl New York, NY 10001. 100% of all funds raised will go directly to support the organizing of the STSEL and STISSS unions.

(Sample letter to Guillermo Sol Bang, director of the CEL, or Mauricio Ramos, director of the ISSS)

Ingeniero Guillermo Sol Bang
Comisión Hidroeléctrica del Río Lempa
Director

Lic. Mauricio Ramos
Instituto Salvadoreño del Seguro Social
Director

Agosto 2002

Estimado ____________________________

Reciba por este medio mis saludos. Me dirijo a usted con suma preocupación a raíz de los recientes despidos ocurridos en la institución que usted dirige. Entiendo que los despedidos son sindicalistas que fueron despedidos sin causa alguna o por ser miembros del sindicato dentro de su empresa. Dicha acción constituye una severa violación a los derechos laborales y al derecho de organización que tienen los trabajadores salvadoreños. Con ello se demuestra que las condiciones laborales en El Salvador no se prestan para la firma de un tratado de libre comercio con los Estados Unidos. No tenga duda en que le informaré a mi representante dentro del Congreso estadounidense de este hecho violatorio de leyes laborales nacionales e internacionales.

Sigo muy de cerca el respeto a los derechos humanos y laborales en El Salvador y me consterna las acciones tomadas por su empresa. Demando que se negocie de buena fe con el sindicato la reinstitución de los trabajadores despedidos. De igual manera espero que cesen los despidos de trabajadores y sindicalistas así como que se le ponga un alto al proceso de privatización o concesión de los servicios públicos en El Salvador. Continuare monitoreando la labor de respeto a los derechos laborales dentro de su institución y tenga por seguro que mi representante congresional será informado de ello.

Atentamente,

(English translation; please do not send out the English version)

Ing. Guillermo Sol Bang
Comisión Hidroeléctrica del Río Lempa
Director

Lic. Mauricio Ramos
Instituto Salvadoreño del Seguro Social
Director

August 8, 2002

Dear (Ing. Sol Bang/Lic. Mauricio Ramos):

Greetings. I am writing to you to express my concern about the recent firings in your institution. Union members were fired without cause, simply for being active in the union. These firings are a gross violation of the labor rights and the right to organize of Salvadoran workers. As these firings demonstrate, conditions of labor in El Salvador are in no way amenable to the signing of a free trade agreement with the United States. I plan to inform my Congressional representatives of these labor violations.

I closely follow the labor and human rights situation in El Salvador and I am shocked at your actions. I demand that you negotiate in good faith with the union to rehire all fired union members currently seeking reinstatement. Also, I demand that you stop the firings of union members, and that you put a halt to the process of privatization and concession of public services in El Salvador. I will continue to closely monitor the situation of labor violations at the your institution, and will continue to report my findings to my Congressional representatives.

Sincerely,

Andrea Rodriguez
US State Department
August 8, 2002


Dear Andrea Rodriguez:

I am writing to express my concern about the grave situation of labor in El Salvador. It has come to my attention that 13 workers have been fired in the past week from two state agencies, two from the Río Lempa Hydroelectric Commission (CEL) and eleven from the Salvadoran Institute of Social Security (ISSS). These workers were fired for their membership in two unions, the Sindicato de Industria de los Trabajadores del Sector Eléctrico (STSEL) and the Sindicato de Trabajadores del Instituto Salvadoreño del Seguro Social (STISSS). These firings are a gross violation of both workers' rights and of the Salvadoran constitutional right to organize. I intend to inform my Congressional representatives of these labor violations, as they are a strong indication that the current situation in El Salvador is in no way amenable to the signing of a free trade agreement with the United States.

I closely follow the labor and human rights situation in El Salvador and am appalled by these actions. I demand that you urge the Salvadoran government to:

1. Negotiate in good faith with the STSEL and STISSS unions and rehire all fired workers currently seeking reinstatement,
2. Stop the general firings of workers,
3. Halt the privatization process and the concessioning of public services.

In addition, please demand that the US government abstain from opening formal negotiations for a free trade agreement with Central America because of their repeated violations of labor rights. I will continue to closely monitor the situation of labor violations in El Salvador, and will continue to report my findings to my Congressional representatives.



Sincerely,



CISPES - Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
130 W. 29th Street, 9th floor
New York, NY 10001
212-465-8115 phone
212-465-8998 fax
 cispes@cispes.org