Late last year, 1600 members of the Workers’ Union of the National Electrical Energy Company (STENEE) were illegally suspended by the Honduran government. Tomorrow, the workers that were suspended and not reintegrated since then, are required to present themselves at their corresponding workplaces around the country.
Uncertainties about the status of their jobs are high and many workers expect that tomorrow they will be formally laid-off, similar to what occurred with approximately 550 suspended public workers from the Honduran Telecomunications Company (HONDUTEL) in February 2015. On February 5th when suspended HONDUTEL workers presented themselves to HONDUTEL offices around the country, Honduran military stood at the gates of the buildings while each employee were directed individually to a line of lawyers and HONDUTEL management requesting their resignation in exchange for receiving a severance package within one year. Many refused the offers given the illegality of the suspensions and the unwillingness of HONDUTEL management and the government to negotiate.
Public sector unions and their bases have been told many more suspensions will follow in addition to at least two thousand that have already occurred since late 2014 and the 7,000 announced for 2015 alone. STENEE has been told that after tomorrow (March 24th) an additional 1000 ENEE workers will be laid off as well.
The Honduran government has been pushing through various laws in accordance to its commitments to implement strict Structural Adjustments - mostly concentrated in healthcare, pension fund management, national institutions like ENEE, HONDUTEL and the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS), and education - required under the loan signed in early December 2014 with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Structural Adjustments aim to eliminate the role of the central government in education and healthcare, and open public institutions to the private market, amongst others.
The lay-offs of public workers come shortly following a high-level IMF visit to Honduras to evaluate the first three months since the loan was signed in early December 2014. The IMF delegation announced its approval of the recent macroeconomic and social policies implemented by the Honduran government despite the outcry from various public sector unions, indigenous groups, and members of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP).
As privatization sweeps through countries as diverse as the U.S., Canada and Honduras, the IMF plan for Honduras will have dramatic impacts not only on public sector workers but also on Honduran society. With the implementation of the Structural Adjustments, impacts will include increased energy prices and the elimination of energy subsidies for poor families, thus contributing to growing economic and social inequality. Over 59% of the population lives in poverty and 36.2% in extreme poverty. In fact, Honduras is one of the poorest countries of the Western hemisphere and the most violent in the world.