10 March 2014 – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has called for union rights and a guarantee of personal safety for port union leader Victor Crespo, who yesterday returned to Honduras. On his return, Crespo filed human rights complaints with the national authorities following a series of anti-union attacks since September, including death threats, dismissals of trade unionists and the military repression of protesters in Puerto Cortės.
Crespo has personally been subjected to death threats and decided to come out of hiding for his own safety after union officials reported a visit by the Honduran police, accompanied by a representative of the ICTSI local subsidiary OPC, to the offices of his union, the Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM). The police were seeking the detention and arrest of SGTM trade union leaders – Carlos Alvarado and Glen Galdames – for participating in a legal and peaceful protest at the port of Portland’s Terminal 6, in the USA, which is operated by International Container Terminal Services, Inc (ICTSI).
Since winning a concession agreement in 2013 to operate the cargo terminal in Puerto Cortės, Honduras, global port operator ICTSI, its Honduran-created subsidiary, Operadora Portuaria Centroamericana (OPC) and their subcontractor ESTIR, have not responded to requests from the SGTM to engage in negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement. A previous legal request had been filed at the labour ministry. The 4.5 million-strong ITF has raised its concerns over violation of human and trade union rights at Puerto Cortės with the UN’s International Labour Organization and in February approached the Interamerican Human Rights Court in San José, Costa Rica, for protection for Victor, his family and other trade unionists.
ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin stated: “The ITF has put the Honduran government on trial: no excuses, no delays. They must act and act now, or face the consequences.”
Stephen Cotton, ITF acting general secretary, said: “Victor is fully aware that his return to Honduras puts his life in immediate danger. He is standing with his members in a time of need for union rights, the survival of his union and for democracy. The ITF family will stand shoulder to shoulder with the SGTM and the dockers in Puerto Cortės to ensure that attacks that threaten lives and union rights cease.”
Antonio Rodríguez Fritz, ITF regional secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, added: “Since the privatisation process of Puerto Cortės started, resulting in the ICSTI/OPC takeover of operations at the port, death threats have been made against Victor Crespo, forcing him into hiding; his father has been killed in suspicious circumstances; the union treasurer, Carlos Alvarado, has been dismissed; union members and activists of both SGTM and SITRAENP at Puerto Cortės have been dismissed; and soldiers have been sent to confront and arrest protesters in the port. Evidence is mounting against both the government and the company, but it is not too late for them to step up and make genuine efforts. We want them to commit to protect Victor Crespo’s life and to negotiate with the union for a collective agreement in Puerto Cortės.”