The three day strike that we had called in the month of September we carried out for only one day in order to prevent confrontation with the National Civilian Police. Since the day before the strike, the Government and the boss had already militarized all of the workplaces and were not allowing the entry of the leadership of the Executive Council or the locals. Furthermore, two other parallel organizations (ATTES and SINTTEL), that the boss is promoting, dedicated themselves to boycott the strike. As we lifted the strike we were greeted with punches and pepper gas by the PNC.
The demands of the strike were:
This past October 12, the Legislative Assembly approved decree 471 to legalize the massive firings of state workers. The approval was supported by the majority of deputies accept the FMLN. Said decree will get rid of some jobs and enters into effect on January 1; but in ANTEL they want to refill the positions with activists from the ARENA party. Therefore they are pressuring the workers to volunteer and run for their indemnizations.
The functionaries of the state institutions already have lists ready in order to fire more than 15,000 workers. They say that the positions will no longer be necessary but the political bottom line is that they want to get rid of the unionists. Said decree obliges the workers to give up their right to work and leaves room for the bosses to get rid of the positions they want to. This is an act of the Assembly. Furthermore, it makes possible that companeras are victims of sexual harassment and allows the bosses to commit corrupt acts regarding the workers. All of these are violations of, among others, articles 2, 3, 5, 11, 37 and 138 of the Constitution of the Republic.
To prevent the destruction of the unions, 24 organizations of the state carried out a march of 5,000 people on the 23rd of October in the main streets of San Salvador in protest against this decree. On the 24th of October we participated in a seminar to get to know the British experience, which was shared by all of the technocrats from the Adam Smith Institute and they said that, with or without the workers, privatization goes forward. But what was the clearest statement of all was that by Deputy Mena Sandoval, who said, "I thank you for the invitation; I believed that privatization was to make the rich richer but today I am convinced (in just two days), that it is to combat poverty."
As you see the situation is against us. The politicians sell themselves, they're firing the workers, they are weakening our position and all the people that we consulted that already suffered this experience and other technical non-governmental organizations tell us that we should make an alternative proposal and accept what is happening.
We cannot take these costs. There will be other costs but we cannot leave everything in the hands of ARENA.
As the institutions are paying indemnities to the fired, the businessmen say "that the workers will convert themselves into the new rich or new business people and private enterprise is not in a position to absorb those fired by the state." This is half true and half lie.
With the high index of inflation (10.5%), the high costs of energy, potable water, and transport as well as low salaries, almost all of us are in debt and before they retire us we will have to pay our debts off (there's no way we'll be let off the hook), also it's the end of the year and we workers will have to pay up front for the studies of our children. In other countries at least social benefits exist; although taxes increase, at least in part the money goes back to the population. On top of all this we have more than 70% unemployment
We should take into account that Salvadoran big private enterprise also has problems because it will not be able to partake in the cake of privatization, rather it will be those of the British Institute "Adam Smith" and the transnational energy and telecommunications corporations. It is important to understand that although they want to destroy the union it will always exist because of the injustice which is increased at the hands of bosses and supervisors. And it will get worse when they won't stand for the workers organizing themselves; it will happen clandestinely and that could take us back to the decade of the 80's - something that ASTTEL does not want but that the government is provoking.
We celebrated our 11 years of struggle with dignity and identity with a good participation by the rank and file this past Friday the 27th, when our XII General Assembly was carried out. The Assembly was named: "Companeros Efrain Gonzalez and Felipe Merches for the right to life and to work we continue combating corruption and pushing forward modernization." In that opportunity the General Assembly approved the following resolutions:
The fusion of the organizations ASTA-ASTTEL, as a demonstration of true unity in the struggle on behalf of the interests of all the workers.
The conversion (of ASTTEL) from Association to union.. To continue to struggle against privatization. To carry out efforts at the Central American and Caribbean level in the labor struggle against the neo-liberal model. To make into reality the purchase of our union office to which end we have 208,564.70 colones thanks to the donations of the workers and international solidarity from Austria.
Also, the directorate of the Association was elected for the period of 96-97. (see spanish original for directorate listing)
Wilmer Erroa Argueta
Sec. International Relations