Canadian union NUPGE calls for end to repression and violence against trade unionists in Guatemala

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Larry Brown, the President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), has sent a letter to the President of Guatemala calling for an end to repression and violence against workers and unions.

In that letter to President Alejandro Giammattei, Brown expresses “concern about a recent marked increase in violations of the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and human rights in general in Guatemala.”

This NUPGE statement highlights: “At least 5 trade unionists have been assassinated since January 2020, and there are reports of other assassination attempts.”

It then names José Guadalupe Hernández, an affiliated member of the Legislative Workers’ Union (STOL), who was murdered on June 2 in Guatemala City.

NUPGE notes: “This assassination took place in the context of intensifying repression against STOL, its leadership, and affiliated members. STOL has been actively campaigning against layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Brown says: “Repression and violence against workers and their unions must end. A full and independent investigation of the murder of Brother José Guadalupe Hernández and the other union leaders and activists who have been killed or suffered assassination attempts must be completed.”

Peace Brigades International was present in Guatemala from 1983 until the peace agreement in 1999 and then resumed our presence in 2003.

During our first 15 years in Guatemala, PBI protected hundreds of activists from state attack. We accompanied trade unions, farmers organizations, student activists and a powerful new network of Mayan organizations.

Notably PBI accompanied workers with the SITRALU (the Lunafil Thread Factory Workers Union) in the late 1980s.

The workers at that factory located just outside of Guatemala City were told that they would have to work additional twelve-hour weekend shifts without overtime pay. During the strike that ensued, PBI provided accompaniment to the workers 24 hours a day from June 1987 until July 1988 when the strike was settled in favour of the union.

Between 2004 and 2017, 87 labour leaders were murdered in Guatemala. Many more were harassed and threatened. As NUPGE’s letter notes, this unacceptable violence continues with the assassinations of 5 labour activists in 2020.

For more on the NUPGE letter, please see NUPGE calls on Guatemalan president to end repression of trade unionists.

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