The following action alert was received from CISPES, The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. If you fill out your name and address in the form at the end of this page, we will send an email to the president of El Salvador on your behalf (with copies to you). Copies will also go to the State Department's general comments email box and to Fernando Costa of the InterAmerican Development Bank. Mr. Costa is the project manager at the IADB for the "modernization" [i.e., privatization] of the Salvadoran telephone company.
The text of the email can be found at the end of this page.
P.O. Box 1801, New York, NY 10159
New York, NY 212-229-1290
Minneapolis, MN 612-872-0944
San Francisco, CA 415-648-6520
January 6, 1998
72 UNION LEADERS FIRED IN ATTEMPT TO BUST TELECOM UNIONS
On Friday, January 2, CTE, the Salvadoran Telecommunications Company (formerly ANTEL), fired 72 leaders of the four ANTEL unions, including Wilfredo Berrios, ASTTEL Secretary General, and Wilmer Erroa Argueta, ASTTEL Secretary of International Relations. Many of you met Wilmer in the fall of 1996, during a CISPES-sponsored national tour.
The firings were announced just after the union leaders began to solicit recognition of a single industry-wide union in the area of telecommunications, ATANTEL. Union leaders charge that the Government of El Salvador and the management of the privatized ANTEL want to destroy the unions before turning the company over to a strategic partner, (i.e. a global telecom giant), who will bid for and win the right to buy 51% of the company. The entire process of privatization is slated for completion in the first half of this year.
CTE claims that the 72 employees were fired because of their poor performance historically and for carrying out union activities instead of their jobs. Juan Jose Daboub, the company's president, justified the firings on the grounds that the employees' union activism might discourage potential investors, while CTE's General Manager, Carlos Medina, stated, "These people threatened the process of privatization."
Most recently the unions have protested the closing of the ANTEL Hospital and transfer of services to the Social Security Institute hospitals. (None of the ANTEL Hospital workers are being recontracted and chronic patients that have been receiving care as family members of ANTEL employees are no longer going to be eligible for continued care.)
The fired leaders and their unions have denounced the company's actions as violating their constitutional right to organize; the privatization of ANTEL law, which stipulates 18 months of job stability; as well as the labor contract that CTE signed with its employees on Dec. 29, 1997.
The company claims that it is complying with the privatization law by giving the fired workers extra monetary compensation for the 18 months of labor stability promised. The workers are refusing this compensation, insisting that they be reinstated. They are considering organizing protests and undertaking legal procedures to challenge the constitutionality of the firings. Article 47 of the Constitution allows for free association, the right to defend one's interests and unionize. It also prohibits the firings of union leaders for one year after they are no longer in their respective office.
For over 2 years workers warned that the privatization of ANTEL would dramatically undermine workers' rights and ability to organize. The fired union leaders and their unions are calling for solidarity to denounce this violation of their rights and insist upon the workers' reinstatement!
Or if you fill out your name and address in the form below, TecsChange will send the following letter (in both English and Spanish) to president Calderon Sol and to State Department officials. You will also get a copy, along with the folks at ASTTEL.
Letter to the President
Excelentisimo Señor Presidente:
Con asombro este día hemos recibido la nota de despido de dirigentes sindicales y miembros de las bases de las telecomunicaciones de El Salvador. Es sorprendente que Usted en las giras que realiza por paises amigos vocifera y pregona que El Salvador avanza hacia una verdadera democracía y en la practica sigue siendo un opresor contra el libre Sindicalismo. Creemos que con actitudes como las que Usted esta tomando son las que llevaron al pueblo salvadoreño a una guerra de doce años. Demandamos que reincorporen inmediatamente a todos los despedidos de la nueva empresa C.T.E. en El Salvador.
We have received with great surprise the news of the sacking of several trade union leaders in the telecommunications sector in El Salvador. This is even more surprising because when you go abroad to other countries, you boast about the fact that El Salvador advances to a real democracy but in practice you maintain repression against trade unions. These are the kind of attitudes that led El Salvador to a 12 year war. We demand the immediate reinstatement of all sacked trade unionists to the new CTE company.
This on-line petition is brought to you with the help of volunteer web developers at The Boston Committee on the Middle East. Please visit their web page. They also have an on-line petition demanding an end to unconditional U.S. support for Israel. Please fill that one out also. (June 5, 1997 was the thirtieth anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. They say thiry years is enough! We hope you agree.)
The workers of El Salvador thank you for your support.
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