Court Orders Salvadoran Labor Ministry to Allow Industry-wide Unions

Unionized workers in El Salvador’s privatized telecommunications sector won a major court decision in their struggle to form an industrial union last week. The Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ in Spanish) found that the Salvadoran Ministry of Labor acted improperly when it denied legal status to SITCOM, an industrial union comprised of telephone, radio and cable TV workers. The CSJ decision requires that the Labor Ministry allow SITCOM to present its documentation for a second hearing. The union of Telecom workers, SUTTEL, brought the case and waited three years for a decision.

"This is a precedent setting decision for workers throughout El Salvador," said Wilfredo Berrios of SUTTEL, "Organizing an industrial union makes workers less vulnerable to attacks from transnational corporations that try to violate our rights and repress our wages."

Berrios adds that since SITCOM includes members who hail from a variety of communication companies, it has more capacity to weather corporate attacks on worker organization at any one company. That benefits workers, he says.

SUTTEL represents workers at the multi-national Telecom, formerly known as ANTEL, the state-run telephone company in El Salvador which was privatized in 1996. Telecom is currently owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.