|10SANSALVADOR7||2010-01-06 15:45:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy San Salvador|
VZCZCXYZ0021 RR RUEHWEB DE RUEHSN #0007 0061545 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 061545Z JAN 10 FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0205 INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE RHMFISS/COMUSNAVSO RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL RULSJGA/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 000007
1. (C) SUMMARY: A large-scale labor union strike closed El
Salvador's sole operating seaport for two days until police
peacefully removed the strikers. The President of the Salvadoran
Autonomous Port Authority (CEPA), Guillermo Lopez-Suarez, said port
operations have returned to normal and negotiations are ongoing.
Lopez-Suarez also alleged gang involvement in the union and strike,
a potentially troubling development in El Salvador's labor
movement. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) On December 29, the Salvadoran stevedores union (STIPES)
organized a labor strike at the Port of Acajutla, El Salvador's
sole operating seaport, blockading all entry/exit points and
forcing the cessation of operations. Approximately 150 striking
workers maintained a 24-hour vigil and prevented all movement in
and out of the port, forcing three cargo vessels to leave port
without unloading their goods. On December 31, the National
Civilian Police (PNC) peacefully dislodged the protestors and
forced them to maintain an 800 meter distance from the port.
Although the media reported on financial damages due to the port
closure, the Embassy did not receive any reports from U.S.
businesses based in El Salvador affected by the closure.
3. (SBU) According to Roberto Bara, General Manager of CEPA, STIPES
demanded that 440 subcontracted port workers be hired into
permanent positions in CEPA. Bara said the subcontractors are paid
on a per job basis, earning less than permanent salaried employees.
Bara added reinstating all 440 former employees is
not financially viable and could bankrupt the port and seriously
jeopardize CEPA's finances.
4. (SBU) On January 4, Guillermo Lopez Suarez, President of CEPA,
advised that normal operations at the port have resumed but
negotiations with STIPES continue. Lopez-Suarez said STIPES
accepted a compromise where CEPA will now pay the aggrieved workers
a higher salary and provide benefits, but the workers will not be
hired as permanent CEPA employees. STIPES has threatened to renew
the strike, however, unless CEPA agrees to their new demand to give
the union control over all hiring and firing decisions at the port.
5. (C) Lopez-Suarez alleged eleven STIPES directors are associated
with the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) street gang and, during the
strike, gang members went to workers' homes, threatening to kill
family members if they reported to work. Lopez-Suarez said several
CEPA employees have reported similar stories to their supervisors.
6. (C) COMMENT: The good news is that the PNC acted on behalf of
law and order to reopen Acajutla for business. On the other hand,
Lopez-Suarez's allegation about gang involvement at senior levels
within STIPES represents a potentially worrying development in the
Salvadoran labor movement. With many in the private sector already
expressing concern about aggressive FMLN policies that support
organized labor, news that the unions may be infiltrated or
directed by gang leaders will further chill relations among labor
unions, businesses and government regulators. Systematic
infiltration of Salvadoran labor unions would represent a
significant obstacle to the development of modern structures of
organized labor, which remains poorly developed two decades after
the end of El Salvador's civil war.