Nayeli Luis, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
Yes you heard right. The Regional Campaign against the Flexibility of Labor Rights (or Regional Campaign), comprised of labor rights organizations from throughout Central America, declared August 12, 2010 as the Regional Day against Labor Flexibility. There is already an Earth Day and a World Peace Day so why not a day against labor violations and labor flexibility? Sure, everyone would like no labor violations to occur every day, but organizing one day to raise awareness and fight back against labor flexibility is a good start.
Labor flexibility allows employers to make exceptions to rights granted to workers. Last year, the Regional Campaign chose August 12 as the Regional Day of Action to coincide with the day in 1995 where law 44, a law that made labor standards more flexible was passed in Panama. In Panama, law 44 was the biggest legal labor flexibilization in Central America and caused Panamanian labor contracts to be flexibilized by employers. Central American organizations fear that the economic crisis may be used as a justification to undermine workers rights without labor unions being able to do anything. A study done by the Regional Campaign reveals how labor “flexibilization” has affected workers in Central America and how it is used as a long term strategy by employers to escape accountability for respecting labor rights. Among the primary steps taken by industries to “flexibilize” the labor force are: outsourcing, persecution of labor unions, and the hiring of temporary workers instead of full-time employees. Click here to read the report.
With regard to labor flexibility practices, workers don’t really have a choice; either they work without benefits or not work at all. If labor flexibilization continues, Central Americans would be forced to work with labor violations and without benefits or not work at all. The Regional Campaign against Labor Flexibility composed of labor organizations in Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua have been fighting for labor rights in their countries in the form of a Regional Coalition for five years, with many more years advocating at a national level in their respective countries. In order to spread awareness on labor flexibility more effectively, the Regional Campaign will be hosting activities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama on August 12, 2010 in commemoration of the Regional Action Day against Labor Flexibility.
In Guatemala the event will be named “Challenges of the Guatemalan Union Movement against Labor Flexibility and Sub-contracting.” The event will take place in the Hotel Royal Palace on the 6th. Avenue 12-66 Zone 1, Guatemala City, from 9 to 12 AM. Honduras will hold a workshop titled “A day of Campaign for Central America, together everyone against labor flexibility,” in the Antropology Museum of San Pedro Sula, from 8 AM. to 2 PM. Costa Rica’s event will be called “Experiences of One Salary in th public sector and union perspectives of struggle,” to be held in the PANI Auditorium located in the old installations of Dos Pinos, in Barrio Luján, San José, from 2 to 5 PM. Nicaragua will host a public workshop with labor unions and other organizations who are experienced in the theme of labor flexibility. Additionally, there will be another workshop dealing with the issue of migrants. Lastly, Panama will be picketing with the Coordinator of Labor around the country against law 30.The Regional Campaign is inviting all social organizations, students, and others interested in helping the cause, to participate in a regional activity. I truly hope that hundreds of people in these five nations attend the activities planned. Job security and benefits are essential for all people regardless of the economic status they have. A massive mobilization of individuals will show governments and industries how imperative labor rights are to promoting equitable development. The Regional Action Day against Labor Flexibility can hopefully inspire other countries where labor flexibility practices are occurring to spread greater consciousness of the issues.
It impresses me what labor organizations in Central America can accomplish with their commitment to stand by labor rights regardless of the obstacles they face. Other labor organizations, like International Labor Rights Forum, have also been vocal against labor flexibility practices. ILRF has commissioned several reports on labor rights violations. Click here to learn more about contract labor and labor flexibility.