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Solidarity Center: Guatemalan Aluminum Workers Describe Abuse

Workers at a Ternium factory in Guatemala were fired after they formed a union. Photo courtesy: SITRATERNIUM

This is an excerpt from the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center's "INTERVIEW: Guatemalan Aluminum Workers Describe Abuse."

When Emeterio Nach suffered a shoulder injury at his job, he asked his supervisor at the Ternium aluminum processing plant in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, for time off to see his doctor. After the supervisor denied his request, Nach asked again. The supervisor continued to refuse, finally telling Nach he would be fired if he kept asking—and if he were sick, he'd be fired as well because the factory needed healthy workers.

The 250 workers at the Villa Nueva plant frequently experienced such treatment, leading Nach, along with his co-workers, to create a union, SITRATERNIUM (Ternium International Guatemala Worker’s Union). They filed for registration of organization in March with the Ministry of Labor.

As a result, the company immediately fired dozens of workers, including Nach. The firings violate Guatemalan labor code (Article 209), as well as international labor standards relating to freedom of association and the right to unionize.

“Management used to tell us they can do whatever they want with the workers,” says Nach, speaking through a translator. “They didn’t care about the Ministry of Labor or inspections or anything. I could never take a day off.” Nach, who worked more than four years at the factory, helping produce metal beams, says if the workers do not put in 12 hours a day, seven days a week on the job, Ternium fires them.

Workers and management met in six mediation sessions in April and May, but the company refused to negotiate. Ternium reinstated 10 of the 27 workers in July, but workers say they have been threatened against speaking of the union to others. One says he was suspended for eight days for speaking to a colleague about the union during his lunch break. Others have been ostracized, isolated and harassed at work.

Read the rest of "INTERVIEW: Guatemalan Aluminum Workers Describe Abuse."

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