abr 04 2012

EL SALVADOR: UPDATE ON AERODESPACHOS LABOUR CONFLICT

Published by at 3:42 PM under Aerodespachos,SITIAPES

The union local of SITIAPES at the Aerodespachos company was formed in May of 2011. The union asked the company for collective negotiation in June of 2011, after meeting the requirement established by law of representing 51% of the workers. The work conditions were very poor, lacking the minimum conditions of respect in the work place and the salaries were very low.

The Aerodespachos firm has a contract with the state enterprise CEPA in order to give ground assistance service to international flights at the International Airport of El Salvador. Its clients are American, United, Continental, Iberia, Delta and Taca airlines as well as DHL. To date 96 of the company’s 110 workers at the airport are members of the union.

Between June and November of 2011, the company failed to attend the meetings convened by the Ministry of Labor in order to negotiate a collective contract. Confronted by this negative response, the union requested “Obligatory Arbitration.” Nevertheless on November 2nd, Aerodespachos began firing workers in an attempt to reduce the percentage of SITIAPES members employed by the company. Seventeen workers were fired that day.

This provoked a day of protest at the airport on November 4th. As a result of the protest, the Ministry of Labor carried out an inspection in which a large number of infractions of labor laws were identified. The company corrected some of the infractions but failed to correct those related to protective equipment for the workers and also failed to desist from anti-union discrimination.

Faced with the Ministry of Labor’s insistence that the infractions be corrected, the company manifested that it would prefer to pay the corresponding fine rather than correcting the infractions. Legally this functions as admission that the infractions have been committed. The highest fine which the government of El Salvador can impose of management is $57.14.

The company also petitioned the Supreme Court of Justice for immunity in order to not be forced to negotiate a collective contract, arguing that the company had 164 workers rather than 110. Yet even with the increased number of workers supposed by the company in an artificial manner, the union is still above the 51% membership requirement established by the law.  The court has not yet announced its decision.

Between December of 2011 and March of 2012, the company fired another 9 workers, continuing its attempt to reduce the percentage of employees affiliated to SITIAPES. In order to substitute the fired workers, 20 workers were subcontracted through the compnay CONINSERV S.A. of C.V. The Procurements and Contracting Law for Public Administration (known by the Spanish acronym LACAP), prohibits that a company sub-contracted by the government (such as the case of Aerodespachos) from carrying out its own further sub-contracting to other companies in order to lend the services which it has been hired to provide.

On March 14, Aerodespachos fired another 4 workers, provoking a reaction from the rest of the membership, which manifested as a STRIKE which lasted from March 15-22, 2012. Under Salvadoran law, the strike is a right. According to article 528 of the Labor Code “The defense of common professional interests of workers” is a legally recognized motivation to strike. It is also established in Article 48 of the Constitution that in order to exercise the right to strike, prior permission is not required on the part of any authority. Article 546 of the Labor Code establishes that the authorities which rule on the legality of strikes are the Labor Judges. In addition, Art. 551 of the Labor Code establishes that “A strike is presumed legal while it has not been declared to the contrary”. All of the laws back the action of workers to strike in the case of Aerodespachos.

Nonetheless, on March 21st, the Judge of the 3rd Labor Tribunal of San Salvador decreed that the strike was not legal and gave a period of 48 hours for the workers to return to their labors. Respectful of the law, the workers lifted the strike on March 22 and presented themselves at work on the day of March 23rd, within the timeframe established by law.

But on March 27, the company argued that IBERIA, AMERICAN, CONTINENTAL and UNITED airlines had manifested that they did not want unionized personnel attending to their flights. Under this argument, Aerodespachos fired 60 workers, thus finalizing the termination of ALL of the unionized workers.

Sufficient evidence exists that the company, Aerodespachos of El Salvador, committed multiple infractions of labor law and of the law for contracting (LACAP), and that despite all of the efforts by the union and the government, the company is not disposed toward complying with the law or in establishing a normal, constructive relationship with respect for its employees and the union.

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Solidarity with Aerodespachos workers

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