Date: Mon, 12 Oct 98 13:39:36 CDT
/** reg.nicaragua: 45.0 **/
Honduran telephone workers strike over privatization
Weekly News Update on the Americas, issue 454, 11 October 1998
On Oct. 7 Honduran telephone workers suspended a sitdown strike they began in Tegucigalpa the day before over the planned privatization of the state-owned Honduran Telephone Company (HONDUTEL). Telephone workers' union leader Sara Ponce said: "Last night we signed an agreement in which the company's management promised to talk with the president of the Congress and present our demands." The unionists said talks with Congress president Rafael Pineda and a legislative committee were scheduled for Oct. 7.
The strike by thousands of workers--Reuter reported 2,000 while Associated Press gave the number as 5,000--shut down administrative and technical services in the main Tegucigalpa office and disrupted operator-assisted local calls. The workers were seeking job security and the purchase of 4% cent of the shares to be privatized.
The Honduran Congress passed legislation, proposed by President Carlos Flores, authorizing the sale of 50% of HONDUTEL's shares to an international joint-venture partner in 1999. 4% could be sold to local institutions and HONDUTEL employees and users; the government is to retain 46%. Estimates of the company's assets go as high as $900 million. The government has said that it will turn the company over to the majority shareholders in good condition in relation to the workforce--which is taken to mean the dismissal of some 4,500 workers.
The Honduran Armed Forces controlled the telephone company between 1963 and 1995, along with many other aspects of the country's economic life. The military directly controlled the Honduran government from 1956 to 1981. [La Nacion (Costa Rica) 10/7/98 from AP, 10/8/98 from Reuter]