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3/06/2005

Bush Refuses to Include Workers’ Rights in CAFTA

A recent report by Human Rights Watch highlighted how workers in El Salvador are often denied such basic rights as the right to form a union and bargain collectively. Yet, the Bush administration refused to include protection for core workers’ rights in CAFTA.

As an example of the routine and systematic abuse workers face, Garcia cited the recent firings of workers at the Acajulta Port in El Salvador. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, El Salvador’s government claimed it needed to privatize the port to make it more secure. That was just a ruse to get rid of the union that represented more than 3,000 workers at Acajulta, Garcia says, by spreading the work among seven companies.

Tired of working long hours and under poor conditions, the workers tried to form a union again last December. One day after the workers requested to register the union with the federal Labor Ministry, the companies fired 150 workers, including 45 founding members of the union. Rather than protect the workers’ right to form a union, the labor minister announced he could not register the union because the founding members were not employed at the port. The workers have filed a complaint with the International Labor Organization, an arm of the United Nations.

“El Salvador’s government knows CAFTA is on the agenda,” Garcia says. “If the huge incentive of CAFTA is not enough to stop the violations, imagine what they would do if CAFTA passes.”

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