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Labor Unions

Honduras has long been heavily unionized. In 1993 approximately 15 to 20 percent of the overall formal work force was represented by some type of union, and about 40 percent of urban workers were union members. There were forty-eight strikes in the public sector alone in 1990, protesting the government's economic austerity program and layoffs of public-sector workers. More than 4,000 public-sector employees from the Ministry of Communications, Public Works, and Transport were fired in 1990. About 70,000 unionized workers remained in the faltering public sector in the beginning of 1991. However, the government largely made good its pledge to trim that number by 8,000 to 10,000 throughout 1991 as part of its austerity program.

In the private sector, 1990 saw ninety-four strikes in sixtyfour firms as workers fought for wage increases to combat inflation. A forty-two-day strike at the Tela Railroad Company (owned by Chiquita Brands International--formerly United Brands and United Fruit Company) was unsuccessful, however, and that defeat temporarily ended union efforts at direct confrontation.

In 1993 Honduras had three major labor confederations: the Confederation of Honduran Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de Honduras--CTH), claiming a membership of about 160,000 workers; the General Workers' Central (Central General de Trabajadores--CGT), claiming to represent 120,000 members; and the Unitary Confederation of Honduran Workers (Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras--CUTH), a new confederation formed in May 1992, with an estimated membership of about 30,000. The three confederations included numerous trade union federations, individual unions, and peasant organizations.

The CTH, the nation's largest trade confederation, was formed in 1964 by the nation's largest peasant organization, the National Association of Honduran Peasants (Asociación Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras--Anach), and by Honduran unions affiliated with the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (Organización Regional Interamericana de Trabajadores--ORIT), a hemispheric labor organization with close ties to the American Federation of LaborCongress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO). In the early 1990s, the confederation had three major components: the 45,000-member Federation of Unions of National Workers of Honduras (Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Nacionales de Honduras--Fesitranh); the 22,000 member Central Federation of Honduran Free Trade Unions (Federación Central de Sindicatos Libres de Honduras); and the 2,200-member Federation of National Maritime Unions of Honduras (Federación de Sindicales Marítimas Nacionales de Honduras). In addition, Anach, claiming to represent between 60,000 and 80,000 members, was affiliated with Fesitranh. Fesitranh was by far the country's most powerful labor federation, with most of its unions located in San Pedro Sula and the Puerto Cortés Free Zone. The unions of the United States-owned banana companies and the United States-owned petroleum refinery also were affiliated with Fesitranh. The CTH received support from foreign labor organizations, including ORIT, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), and Germany's Friedreich Ebert Foundation and was an affiliate of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

Although it was not legally recognized until 1982, the CGT was originally formed in 1970 by the Christian Democrats and received external support from the World Confederation of Labor (WCL) and the Latin American Workers Central (Central Latinoamericana de Trabajadores--CLAT), a regional organization supported by Christian Democratic parties. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, the CGT leadership developed close ties to the National Party of Honduras (Partido Nacional de Honduaras--PNH), and several leaders served in the Callejas government. Another national peasant organization, the National Union of Peasants (Unión Nacional de Campesinos--UNC), claiming a membership of 40,000, was affiliated with the CGT for many years and was a principal force within the confederation.

The CUTH was formed in May 1992 by two principal labor federations, the Unitary Federation of Honduran Workers (Federación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras--FUTH) and the Independent Federation of Honduran Workers (Federación Independiente de Trabajadores de Honduras--FITH), as well as several smaller labor groups, all critical of the Callejas government's neoliberal economic reform program.

The Marxist FUTH, with an estimated 16,000 members in the early 1990s, was first organized in 1980 by three communist-influenced unions, but did not receive legal status until 1988. The federation had external ties with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the Permanent Congress for Latin American Workers Trade Union Unity (Congreso Permanente de Unidad Sindical de Trabajadores de América Latina--CPUSTAL), and the Central American Committee of Trade Union Unity (Comité de Unidad Sindical de Centroamérica--CUSCA). Its affiliations included water utility, university, electricity company, brewery, and teacher unions, as well as several peasant organizations, including the National Central of Farm Workers (Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo--CNTC), formed in 1985 and active in land occupations in the early 1980s.

FUTH also became affiliated with a number of leftist popular organizations in a group known as the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations (Comité Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Populares--CCOP) that was formed in 1984. Dissident FUTH member formed the FITH, which was granted legal status in 1988. The FITH consisted of fourteen unions claiming about 13,000 members in the early 1990s.

Data as of December 1993

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