The ITF has called on the government in Honduras to involve dockers’ unions and civil society organisations in port modernisation plans in a battle to stave off port concessioning.
The ITF is backing the ITF-affiliated Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Nacional Portuaria (SITRAENP), which has held protests – including a mass action on 17 March – against the government’s proposals to concession container terminals in Puerto Cortes. It is also opposed to the introduction of an executive decree (PCM-079) in December 2011, allowing tenders for the terminals to be invited.
Apart from the executive decree, the government is looking for other alternatives so that it can start the concessioning process, for example, the creation of an association called “Coalianza”, which could attract international tenders. The union believes that the plans will put the jobs of Sitraenp workers at risk. The port handles 90 per cent of Honduras’s maritime traffic, provides cities around the port with four per cent of its revenue and transfers a significant amount of money to the state to finance various social programmes.
Other ports owned and managed by the ENP depend on Puerto Cortes and may not have the financial capacity to continue operating without it, which could have a negative impact on their communities.
Apart from the executive decree, the government is looking for other alternatives so that it can start the concessioning process, for example, the creation of an association called “Coalianza”, which could attract international tenders. Sitraenp and other trade unions and social organisations have presented alternatives to concessioning, including financial and administrative proposals to modernise the national port company. However, the government has proceeded regardless.
Antonio Rodriguez Fritz, ITF Americas Regional Secretary, said: “The ENP has been essential for the development of Honduras. It not only provides funds for the social development of the city where the ports are located, but also sustains smaller ports, which are essential for the development and integration of some of the country’s other regions. The port workers and civil society organisations have demonstrated that concessioning is not the solution and have put forward viable alternatives. We believe that the government should involve the union in drafting a plan for the modernisation of the ENP and that the national interest should be considered over the interests of overseas companies.”